Nutritional Psychology: Towards the Development of a New Integrated Model of Mental Healthcare

So many of us have powerful feelings and experiences related to the foods we eat. Yet many of these experiences aren’t validated through research, nor are they adequately addressed within the current mental healthcare model. The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) exists to validate these experiences, and to support the development of a newly integrated approach to mental healthcare that supports the human-diet relationship.

Many of us feel enthusiastic when new studies are published that connect diet with mental health. Yet we wonder where these studies will go, and how they will be put to use in a way that directly improves our mental health. Will they result in changes that positively impact education, training and healthcare? Or will they fade back into the research community from which they came?

CNP knows it takes more than one study to create change – it takes a thousand. It also requires finding a way to turn the findings from these studies into action — action that leads to the development of measurable and impactful tools and concepts that can be used by the population that needs them — us all.

That’s why we’ve collected a thousand studies from around the world, each examining ways in which our diet if affecting our mood, behavior, and our mental health.  We’ve consolidated these elements into an online curated research library that provides conceptualization in how these elements connect. Together, these studies validate the human experience in relation to diet and point to the need for innovation in our current mental healthcare model.

Along with conceptualization, we’re also building methodology and tools that translate findings from the vast amount of research into actionable, tangible methods designed to create positive change in people’s Diet-Mental Health Relationship (and their lives).

The research studies in the CNP Research libraries have been conceptualized into 45+ different categories, which together, inform the conceptualization needed to develop the new field of Nutritional Psychology. These categories represent conceptualization in the psychological, cognitive, behavioral, cognitive-interoceptive, perceptual, and psychosocial elements comprising NP, and together, form our first understanding of the field of Nutritional Psychology.

The CNP Research libraries house four online research libraries containing links to the studies informing each element of the field. These libraries include:

The CNP Professional Research Library consolidates research in Nutritional Psychology for use by professionals, researchers, clinicians and practitioners in the elements of the Diet-Mental health Relationship relating to Nutritional Psychology.

The CNP Parent Research Library consolidates research in the child/adolescent diet-mental health relationship and is a resource for parents as well as professionals working with the child and adolescent/youth populations.

The CNP Child and Adolescent Cooking Research Library consolidates research illuminating the relationship between cooking in childhood and adolescence and physical and mental health).

The CNP Neurodevelopmental Research library consolidates research in how diet impacts neurodevelopmental development (i.e., ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder etc.).

What is Nutritional Psychology and how can it get us moving forward?

Nutritional Psychology (NP) examines the relationship between dietary (and nutrient) intake and psychological, behavioral, cognitive, cognitive-interoceptive, perceptual and psychosocial functioning.

NP is an applied discipline that provides individuals with skills and understanding in how their dietary intake may be playing a role in their mood, behavior and mental health. NP incorporates elements from education, nutrition, and psychology.

CNP exists to support the development of the field of Nutritional Psychology. In addition to consolidating research informing the field, we are developing methodology and educational curriculum for professionals, parents, and children, and advocating for a new and integrated model of mental healthcare that includes a nutritional component to mental healthcare by 2030.

The Advocacy Component to Nutritional Psychology

CNP’s provides a venue for professionals, students, organizations and interested individuals to advocate for this new model of mental healthcare by offering a brief, 2-minute online way of advocating through our website (https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/advocating-nutritional/). We are consolidating this advocacy data and using it to inform universities, healthcare institutions, insurance companies, and policy-makers of the need for a nutritional component to mental healthcare.

The Faces of NP: Capturing individual experience to increase social connection and facilitate awareness of the DMHR

We believe that a new, integrated model of mental healthcare requires not only consolidation of research in the areas encompassing the relationship between nutrition and mental health, but insight into the individual experience of the individuals who can benefit from this care. It also requires a broader social support system that destigmatizes and illuminate’s people’s struggles with food (whether they involve over- or under-nutrition), connecting individuals in their Diet-mental Health Journey.

To capture this personal experience and increase connectivity, CNP has created The Faces of Nutritional Psychology. The Faces of NP is a collection of personal stories written by people who have experienced positive shifts in their psychological, emotional, and mental well-being in response to improving their dietary intake patterns. These written stories inspire and encourage others to improve their own dietary patterns, and in doing so, help them to better their Diet-Mental Health Relationship. CNP considers this information as a component of the new way forward into a new integrated nutritional model of mental healthcare.

NP Diet-Mental Health Break (DMHB) Animated Videos

CNP’s “Diet-Mental Health Breaks” are monthly, 2-minute videos that explain cutting-edge research through brief and engaging animated videos. These DMHB’s are designed to increase individuals’ awareness of the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR) and can be used by educators to teach their students, professionals to increase patient/client awareness, or individuals to increase their personal knowledge of how their diet may be impacting their mood, behavior, or mental health.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_FJmhTS7HQ&t=8s to watch your first DMHB.

Formalized Education in Nutritional Psychology

There is a crucial need to deliver better education to clinicians (and the public) about the role that dietary (and nutrient) intake play in supporting our mood, behavior, and mental health. CNP is the developer of the first university-based, accredited curriculum in Nutritional Psychology. The Certificate in Nutritional Psychology began in 2008 and evolved over a 12-year period to include a 7-course program dedicated to providing mental health professionals, educators, dietitians, health coaches, and counselors with formal curriculum in Nutritional Psychology. This long-standing program is currently being updated to account for the vastly increasing information consolidated by CNP, and will be available through an online platform in 2021.

Curriculum for University Students

This NP curriculum is designed for college and university instructors to introduce NP methodology into their undergraduate curriculum in nutrition, psychology or health science courses. See https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/cnp-education/ for more information.

Curriculum for Professionals

This curriculum is for professionals working with clients in a mental health or nutrition setting. Curriculum presents research informing the field, concepts, NP methodology, and client-oriented psychoeducation that increases understanding of the Diet-mental Health Relationship (DMHR).

Curriculum for Kids

This online animated curriculum is designed to help children develop an internal awareness of the effects their diet may be having on their mood, behavior and mental health. The curriculum is designed to be engaging and novel, while instilling them with new cognitive and perceptual skills that increase their awareness of how to eat to feel good (i.e., to support their positive mental health).

Answers to your Questions

We invite you to learn more about Nutritional Psychology by visiting http://www.nutritional-psychology.org. If you are passionate about NP, and have a background you feel can lend expertise to our mission, we invite you to contact us so we can discuss ways for you to get involved with the mission. Contact us through the website, or email info@nutritional-psychology.org.

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