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In an episode of the Mindbodygreen Podcast, Dr. Julia Rucklidge and Dr. Bonnie Kaplan speak with host Jason Wachob about their new groundbreaking book, The Better Brain. You can stream the entire episode here or read the summary below.
The idea of broad-spectrum minerals and vitamins to treat psychiatric conditions was revolutionary when Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge first began researching the impact of nutrition on psychiatric conditions decades ago. Before, the prevailing research had supported a single nutrient approach such as vitamin C for scurvy. Now, over 40 independent medical journal publications including studies carried out by Drs. Kaplan and Rucklidge show that single nutrients do not improve mental health or symptoms of psychiatric conditions. Rather, a multinutrient approach has been shown to make a therapeutic difference in mental health patients.
When asked what is driving the current mental health crisis, Dr. Rucklidge addressed several factors that have led to the skyrocketing rates of psychiatric diagnoses. For one, changes in diagnostic tools mean that more people are falling into diagnosable categories. Alongside that, there is a rising number of people who are seeking diagnoses as conversations around mental health have become less stigmatized.
The most overlooked factor, according to Dr. Rucklidge, is the current state of the food we have access to. Over the past century, Western culture has shifted from eating a whole food diet to one composed mostly of ultra-processed food products. According to Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge, over 50% of the average person’s caloric daily intake comes from processed foods. Even more, there is the glaring issue of soil depletion that leads to healthy foods containing less of the essential vitamins and minerals than they did decades ago.
According to the doctors, there is no single nutrient that is particularly lacking that has led to the mental health crisis, but instead, there are 30 vitamins and minerals that have been found to be absolutely necessary for optimal brain health and function. This has led them to their broad-spectrum approach to micronutrients and the subsequent publication of their book, The Better Brain.
In the podcast, Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge also speak about how someone should approach broad-spectrum nutrient supplementation for those who don’t present symptoms of psychiatric conditions and are simply interested in optimizing their mental health. They mention several different approaches to optimizing health with a nutrition-first approach.
The first thing Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge recommend is switching to a whole foods or Mediterranean diet, heavy in nutrient-dense foods. According to other studies, researchers can predict your risk for depression as far as six years in the future based on the foods you consume. Dr. Kaplan suggests following a 90/10 rule: 90% of what you consume should follow the diet strictly while allowing 10% of the food you ingest to fall outside of the diet.
They specifically address vegan and vegetarian diets as well, saying that supplementation may be even more necessary for those following those diets. The micronutrients readily available in meats and animal products are harder to come by in other foods, which leaves a higher chance of nutrient depletion. While there are ways to get all of your vitamins and minerals while following a vegan or vegetarian diet, the volume of plants you would need to consume in order to meet adequate levels would be too high to maintain for most people.
The approach Dr. Rucklidge recommends after fixing our diet is to begin supplementation. There is a huge gap between the people who would benefit from micronutrient supplements and those who actually take them. She recommends that everyone should try the broad-spectrum approach to see how effective it is for optimizing their mental health before looking at individual micronutrients that may be deficient after that.
Many people who get a blood panel done may assume they are not deficient in certain micronutrients and consequently choose not to use micronutrient supplementation, even though they would benefit from it. Blood panels are not usually all-inclusive and research has found that even if the levels of those micronutrients are sufficient in the blood, it doesn’t mean that those levels are sufficient for what the brain needs. Those panels are relative to other people, but not relative to ourselves without considering our own genetic makeup that may necessitate different nutrition. This means that even people who think their levels of micronutrients are “normal” may benefit from supplementation. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge’s book “The Better Brain” goes into greater depth about the impact of micronutrient therapy. You can purchase their book on our website and save 20% off clinical strength micronutrients with your purchase. To listen to the full podcast episode, click here.