Unhealthy diet, with its associated high BMI and hypertension, now comprises the top risk factor for early death globally. At the same time, mental and substance use disorders account for the leading cause of global disability, with unipolar depression contributing the largest share of that burden.
However, it is only in recent years that we have seen the development of a highly consistent, rigorous and compelling evidence base for diet and nutrition as important modifiable risk factors and treatment options for mental disorders. The rapidly developing evidence base from this new field of Nutritional Psychiatry now suggests that mental and physical illnesses and diet form a triad, with nutrition and dietary behaviours as a shared predictor. This opens the door to common and integrated preventive and treatment approaches based on these shared pathways.
In 2013 the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) was founded and now comprises more than 200 researchers from leading international academic institutions across the globe. The ISNPR represents an international research movement focused on developing effective, sustainable, population-level prevention initiatives for mental illnesses that build on the established and developing approaches to the noncommunicable somatic disorders. Moreover, new clinical interventions targeting both dietary behaviours and the pathways that mediate the diet-mental health connection, including the human microbiome and the immune system, are yielding important new data that support diet-focused approaches to treatment.
This is an exciting and transformational new research field, but it is in its nascency. There is much to be done to extend the new research breakthroughs in Nutritional Psychiatry into psychotic and other low prevalence mental disorders and to understand the pathways that mediate the established relationships in order to better target our interventions. Thus the imperative to grow this field and build cross-disciplinary collaborations is clear.
We welcome you to join us in this important endeavor.