Scientist shows link between diet and onset of mental illness
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Changes in diet have been linked to a reduction of abnormal behaviors in mentally ill people or animals, but a Purdue University study shows that diet might also trigger the onset of mental illness in the first place.
Joseph Garner, an associate professor of animal sciences, fed mice a diet high in sugar and tryptophan that was expected to reduce abnormal hair-pulling. Instead, mice that were already ill worsened their hair-pulling behaviors or started a new self-injurious scratching behavior, and the seemingly healthy mice developed the same abnormal behaviors.
“This strain of mouse is predisposed to being either a scratcher or a hair-puller. Giving them this diet brought out those predispositions,” said Garner, whose results were published in the December issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. “They’re like genetically at-risk people.”…
…Garner’s study raises questions of how diet might be affecting other behavioral or mental illnesses such as autism, Tourette syndrome, trichotillomania and skin-picking. He said that before now, a link between diet and the onset of mental disorders hadn’t been shown.
“What if the increase of simple sugars in the American diet is contributing to the increase of these diseases?” Garner said. “Because we fed the mice more tryptophan than in the typical human diet, this experiment doesn’t show that, but it certainly makes it a possibility.”
Garner next wants to refine the experiments to better imitate human dietary habits, including the amount of tryptophan people consume. Internal Purdue funding paid for his work..
…Abstract on the research in this release is available at: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/101213GarnerTryptophan.html
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