Research has shown that food intake can affect emotional health, as well as manage and prevent conditions derived from depression and dementia. Dr. Christopher Lowry of the Integrative Physiology Department at CU Boulder says there’s a growing awareness on the need to have better nutrition for seniors.
“As you get older, you have increased risk of inflammation and increased risk of inflammatory disease. My role particularly is focused on the changes that we see in ageing with psychiatry. And so we’re interested in essentially a new field that’s called nutritional psychiatry and this is particularly relevant to older people.”
The connection between healthy eating and mental health is starting to become more widely recognized says Lowry. “I think among dieticians of course they’re very knowledgeable about this but I think among psychiatrists it’s perhaps not as well recognized. There are movements I think to take into account, an integrative approach to psychiatry. So for example I’m part of an integrative psychiatry institute that’s offered here every summer here in Boulder and that’s really trying to broaden psychiatry from traditional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy to include these other factors which are clearly important like the diet.”
In April, the results of a study were released that looked at dietary interventions designed to increase intake of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, healthy oils and nuts. Interventions like these were shown to decrease symptoms of depression in many individuals. Lowry says that a dietary shift towards a more Mediterranean diet can result in a healthier mind in a relatively short amount of time.
In addition, research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet, which consists of primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil, reduces the risk of heart disease as well as being associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Dr. Chris Lowry will be one of the presenters at an event organized by the Boulder County Area Agency on Ageing happening on Thursday May 9 from 9am to noon.
Your Brain on Good Food takes place at the Boulder Jewish Community Center, registration is required.