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In an interview with Shelf Life Books, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan speaks about the book she co-authored with Dr. Julia Rucklidge, The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition. Dr. Kaplan is a pioneer in the field of nutrition-based psychiatry research, having studied broad-spectrum micronutrients for the treatment of mental health for decades.
In the interview, Dr. Kaplan talks about the importance of nutrition for mental health and why she and Dr. Rucklidge felt compelled to write the book. According to Dr. Kaplan, there is a vast amount of literature and clinical research showing that psychiatric conditions can be prevented with diet and supplementation, especially before using pharmaceutical medications. Her vision is to change the mental health system so there is an overall nutrition-first approach to treatment.
Dr. Kaplan, who has a background in physiological psychology and neurophysiology, watched as the diagnosis rates of psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and others skyrocketed over the past several decades. She began to ask herself why people weren’t looking at nutrition as a factor in mental health.
In this interview, Dr. Kaplan defined several critical terms for the audience. The first was psychopharmacology, which is the use of medication and pharmaceutical drugs to treat psychiatric conditions. This approach is relatively new, taking off in the 1970s.
Next, she explained DSM criteria, saying that mental health diagnoses based on the DSM manual are somewhat flexible and based solely on self or parent reporting. There are few to no biomarkers in these diagnoses. In her research, she has found that even though these self-reported symptoms have decreased in patients using clinical micronutrient therapy across the DSM categories, overall health and other symptoms have also been positively affected. For example, while her research measured the decrease of inattention, individuals also reported better sleep and less stress.
Another definition Dr. Kaplan clarifies is micronutrients. As opposed to macronutrients–fats, proteins, and carbohydrates–micronutrients are vitamins and minerals required in smaller amounts. Micronutrients are absolutely necessary for optimal brain and body function. These essential nutrients are not made by the body so we must consume them through food and supplementation.
When asked why micronutrients are essential for health, especially mental health, Dr. Kaplan referred to the process of synthesizing brain chemicals and neurotransmitters. Our brains consume up to 40% of the nutrients we consume. We cannot eat serotonin and dopamine, so we have to consume the proper nutrients required for our bodies to properly generate these chemicals and complete other essential processes.
For example, when the brain uses tryptophan to create serotonin, there are 11 micronutrients required for optimized production. When these micronutrients are depleted or are present in less-than-optimal amounts, the production process is slowed and the brain creates less serotonin, which affects mood and sleep. While a proper diet helps–Dr. Kaplan recommends following a whole grain or Mediterranean diet–there are several factors that could still result in micronutrient deficiency. One example is soil overprocessing, which leads to mineral depletion in our food supply.
In her research, Dr. Kaplan analyzed clinical studies and other research-based on singular micronutrients to help specific psychiatric conditions. What she learned from this review was that our brains are too complex to be affected by single nutrients. She, therefore, believes in a broad-spectrum approach to micronutrient supplementation and states that broad-spectrum micronutrient research supports the treatment and prevention of mental health disorders.
Answering a common question she receives, Dr. Kaplan explains why micronutrient formulas such as Daily Essential Nutrients from Hardy Nutritionals® are more beneficial than an over-the-counter multivitamin. While multivitamins are great for an otherwise healthy population, the doses are not high enough to work therapeutically. The levels of nutrients found in generic multivitamins fall within the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) levels. RDA levels are the minimum amounts of these nutrients needed to prevent frank deficiency diseases, such as scurvy. The RDA should not be considered a nutritional goal but rather a bare minimum.
On the other side of the spectrum, upper limit (UL) doses are the highest level of daily intake that pose no adverse health effects for almost all individuals. There is a considerable gap between the RDA and the UL doses. The Hardy Nutritionals® formulations fall squarely within that gap and provide much higher doses of these micronutrients that work at therapeutic levels while still falling under the UL.
Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Rucklidge’s book The Better Brain goes into more depth about the impact of micronutrient therapy. You can purchase their book on our website. To listen to the full interview, click here.