The National Eating Disorder Association estimates that nearly 11 million people are struggling with recognized eating disorders in the United States. According to the CDC, one third of adults in the US and approximately 17% of children are clinically considered obese. The millions in between these two extremes on the energy spectrum undoubtedly have countless body-image issues, fad diet influences, media manipulation that distracts from internal wisdom guiding nutrition, as well as increasingly prevalent unrecognized eating disorders such as orthorexia, binge eating and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). Additionally, the NIMH states that approximately 26% of adults in the US population are dealing with depression; 22% of those cases are considered "severe," and 46% of 13-18 year olds are diagnosed with depression with 21% of those cases being considered "severe."
Michael Pollan discusses in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, our "national eating disorder;" the chasm between us and where our food comes from, the processes of growing, cultivating and harvesting, or genetically engineering, processing, importing and preparing food has created the space for uncertainty, insecurity, and manipulation, in the best of cases. Extremism and obsession, illness and imbalance and ultimately untimely and/or painful deaths are becoming ever more prevalent and can all be traced back to malnourishment.
While it is impossible to prove causation, especially in the context of the complicated and intricate human body, it is clear that the effects of diet impact both our physical well-being and our mental well-being, and it is being increasingly recognized that our mental well-being is linked to physical health.
Dr. Greenblatt is an authority in the field of integrative medicine who has treated patients with mood disorders and complex eating disorders since 1988 with an extensive understanding of biology, genetics, psychology and nutrition. In his book, Answers to Anorexia, Greenblatt discusses the role in mental health of several micronutrients including zinc, magnesium, folic acid and the complex of B vitamins. In one of his radio lectures, Greenblatt drew a connection between the stripping of these minerals (zinc, in particular) from our soil (from monocultures!) and thus from our grain and food supply, and the increase in diagnosis of eating disorders. Further, research supports that patients with eating disorders have significantly lower serum levels of these vitamins and minerals. There are a few promising controlled clinical trials including zinc supplements as an adjuvant therapy in nutritional rehabilitation and psychoactive intervention in the treatment of anorexia. It is a young field of research, and there is much to be done, but it seems clear that the relationships between our food system and the health of our whole selves is of vital importance.