Diet Quality and Mental Health Amongst Acute Inpatient Psychiatric Patients
Taking into consideration the global shift to a diet rich in refined carbohydrates, this exploratory study examined the self-reported dietary habits of psychiatric inpatients in the psychiatric unit of an academic hospital.
After gathering a detailed diet history of patients’ food habits, findings were compared to a Mediterranean dietary index to assess patient dietary patterns. Findings showed that 75% of the psychiatric inpatients had an unhealthy diet, and that inpatients with schizophrenia had highly significant increased sugar consumption.
The study authors expressed concern that unhealthy dietary habits cause deficiencies in essential nutrients and minerals and can exacerbate mental illnesses. They also expressed that while the causes of mental health conditions are multifactorial and can be partially attributed to the social impairment and diminished quality of self-care resulting from mental illness, improved dietary habits may contribute to more rapid symptoms resolution and acute stabilization in short-stay psychiatric inpatient units.
The authors also conclude that while unhealthy food and inactivity have been part of the culture of mental health treatment historically, recommendations and encouragement to follow national guidelines for dietary and exercise practices should be part of care for all people with mental illness.
The authors further state that while mental health practitioners may not feel competent to provide advice on nutrition and diet, the evidence suggests that detailed advice may not be necessary. Read the full, original study here.