Depression: Cure's In Your Diet?

Novelist Sukie Mirzoeff-Craig has fought depression for decades, beginning when she was 21 years old.

She's been in and out of hospitals and therapists' chairs, on and off anti-depressants, and now she's come to London's Brain Bio Center for an alternative therapy: food.

"I have reduced by a very large amount the amount of medication that I'm taking," she tells her counselor.

As CBS News Correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports, thousands of Britons suffering from depression, mental illness and even attention deficit disorder are now, controversially, looking to nutritional therapy as a path to wellness.

Brain Bio Center founder Patrick Holford is leading a "food for better mood" crusade.

"Instead of using manmade drugs, which is a little bit like a wrench in the works and can have side effects, we're using the chemicals that are part of our evolution," says Holford. "These are nutrients."

Holford believes diet can be fine-tuned to influence brain chemistry. He says most of his patients reduce or go off the medication after a yearlong food and supplement regimen.

Three separate clinical studies in Britain, Israel, and the U.S. show there is something to this. Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish had what researchers describe as "a substantial impact" on depression and bi-polar disorder.

Gemma Tovey says she is a success story.

"I was spending seven days a week in bed so the improvement is just incredible," says Tovey.

Drugs and therapy didn't help much, but with the addition of a changed diet and eating more fruit, vegetables and fish, she is now managing her depression.

Still, many doctors and psychiatrists are deeply skeptical, because there simply isn't enough research to call this science. Also, there is real concern that a patient's reliance on nutrition alone could equal a prescription for disaster.

"I think there's danger if they say I'm going to throw away my anti-depressants, throw away my conventional treatment, sack my psychotherapist and just take omega-3 oils," says Dr. Peter McGuffin of the Institute of Psychiatry.

McGuffin studies links between genetics and depression. For him nutrition is not yet part of the equation. That will take more studies and trials.

Mental illness ravages people's lives and patients like Tovey and Mirzoeff-Craig say they need and want, all the help they can get.
  • Jaime Holguin

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