Men's Mental Health and The Role of Diet and Supplements

In today's fast-paced world, mental health issues have become a global concern. They form a significant portion of the disease burden worldwide, with millions of adults and children accessing mental health services each year. However, the reality of the situation is that many more cases go undiscussed and undiagnosed.

The Silent Crisis in Men's Mental Health

There is a growing concern in the field of mental health, often referred to as the silent crisis. This crisis concerns men's mental health specifically. Numerous scholars have stated that mental health has gained momentum in becoming the 'other' silent killer. In England alone, around one in eight men has a common mental disorder (CMD) such as depression, anxiety, or panic disorder. Higher suicide rates among men than among women indicate the need for addressing this crisis promptly. Learn more about this crisis in this comprehensive resource from the Men's Health Forum.

Men's Reluctance to Seek Help for Mental Health Issues

One of the significant factors contributing to this crisis is men's reluctance to seek help for mental health issues. Studies show that men may be more likely to hide physical symptoms of ill-health, with lower consultation rates and help-seeking patterns when compared to their female counterparts. This reluctance extends to symptoms of mental health disorders as well. For instance, in a 2016 survey of 1,112 employed men, it was found that 34% would be embarrassed to take time off work for a mental health concern, compared with 13% for a physical injury.

The Disparity in Mental Health Treatment Between Men and Women

This reluctance to seek help leads to a significant disparity in mental health treatment between men and women. The Mental Health Foundation reaffirms this, stating that only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men. This disparity is not due to better health among men, but rather due to the societal and self-imposed pressures that men face when it comes to discussing and seeking help for their mental health. More about the role of nutrition in mental health.

Man alone on beach

Some Key Micronutrients to Consider for Supporting Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, the importance of micronutrients cannot be overstated. These essential vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in maintaining optimal brain function, influencing everything from our mood to our ability to handle stress. A deficiency in these vital nutrients can lead to a variety of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Phytochemicals and Their Role in Brain Health

One group of micronutrients that has been found to be particularly beneficial for brain health is phytochemicals. These plant bioactives, such as curcumin (from turmeric), oligomeric proanthocyanidins (from red and blue pigmented plants), and genistein (from soy), have all been found to support healthy brain activity through various mechanisms. These include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxification effects, mitochondrial support, and beta-amyloid plaque prevention, all of which help to keep the brain healthy.

The Impact of B Vitamins on Mental Health

B Vitamins play a significant role in mental health. They are needed for brain chemical synthesis, detoxification, and for keeping brain-damaging homocysteine in check. B vitamin deficiency has been linked to depression and problems with memory and cognition.

The Role of Magnesium in Mental Health

Magnesium is another essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in mental health. It supports adrenal function (stress resilience) and blood glucose control for stable mood and cognition. Deficiency in magnesium has been reported to cause personality changes associated with anxiety and depression.


The Importance of Other Minerals in Mental Health

Other essential minerals, such as iron and zinc, also play an important part in mental health. Iron is crucial for the structure and function of the central nervous system, while zinc supports neurotransmitter synthesis and hormonal balance.

The Role of Vitamin D in Mental Health

Vitamin D has been referred to as a neurosteroid due to its modulatory effects on multiple brain functions. It’s involved in brain development, neurotransmission, neuroprotection, and immunomodulation. Better vitamin D status is associated with better mental health, and deficiency may increase the risk of cognitive decline.

The Role of 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP) in Mental Health

5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid that plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Supplementing with 5-HTP can support serotonin levels in individuals with symptoms of low serotonin, such as depression, migraine, seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, and/or eating disorders.

The Impact of EPA and DHA on Mental Health

Another group of nutrients that have a profound impact on mental health are the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Derived primarily from oily fish, these fatty acids are essential for both the structure and function of the brain. They also have anti-inflammatory effects. Better omega-3 status is associated with a lower risk of developing depression and cognitive decline. More info about Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders.

The Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE) for Mental Health

Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE) is of particular interest in mental health research, due to its evidence for improving cerebral circulation, as well as its antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and blood-thinning properties. There may also be a role for the use of GBE in depression since animal studies have reported a beneficial effect on depressive behaviours.

The Role of L-Theanine in Mental Health

Finally, L-Theanine, an amino acid found naturally in green tea, improves the status and function of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, attenuating the negative effects of elevated adrenalin on mental health. As a result, L-Theanine has been found to improve mental energy and focus, in a similar way to meditation, which may be especially helpful for clients who are trapped in a cycle of worry and rumination. L-theanine can improve both the quality and quantity of sleep. Poor sleep has been associated with emotional instability and an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Written by Christian Jakobsson