18 European Medical Partners Study Links between Mental Health and Nutrition

EU-funded consortium studies connections between gut microbiota, diet and exercise to formulate nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for brain health.

An 18-partner medical consortium will spend €11.1M through 2022 studying how dietary components (i.e. sugar, fat, protein content, vitamin and mineral supplementation, probiotics) and lifestyle factors (including exercise) influence people’s overall health, brain function, and behavior.  The project is coordinated by Dr. Alejandro Arias-Vásquez from the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Science has known for years how peoples’ diets and lifestyle affect chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.  Researchers, however, are just beginning to learn that nutrition and lifestyle affect the way the brain works.  Early research has shown evidence of a sizeable impact – both harmful and protective – of nutrition components on behaviours such as impulsivity and compulsivity.

Further studies need to be conducted to understand a) if specific nutrition interventions can change behaviour, b) how big the effect is of these non-pharmacological approaches, and c) how all this works at the brain level.

The purpose of the consortium is to get answers to these questions and to share them through various media with multiple audiences: the general public, patients and their families, clinicians, the food industry, and policymakers. 

These answers could have huge implications for approaches to overall well-being and behavioural problems associated with psychiatric diseases, and suggest significant changes in the type of food people eat.

New Brain Nutrition is the online branding for the consortium, named Eat2BeNICE, which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 728018.

The consortium has just launched its website and branding as Eat2beNICE/New Brain Nutrition with free information and education (blogs, videos, and research findings). Arias-Vasquez also announced that New Brain Nutrition will be offering free online courses for both medical professionals and the public which disseminates the research findings.

Eat2beNICE is using the information on diet and behavior from large European population registries (with anonymous information) to identify dietary components related to mental health and brain function.

Eat2beNICE is also carrying out four clinical trials in order to study the ability of nutritional interventions in different age groups to reduce impulsivity and compulsivity in extremely impulsive males and females:

  1. Restriction elimination diet (in children 5-12y)
  2. Broad-spectrum nutrient supplementation (in adolescents and young adults 12-21y)
  3. Probiotics supplementation (in adults 18-65y)
  4. The Mediterranean diet (in adults and elderly 55-75y)

An important innovative aspect of New Brain Nutrition is the direct involvement of German TV celebrity chef Sebastian Lege, who will translate the project’s scientific findings into food solutions for health and mental well-being. Lege will generate free recipes and cooking lessons, translated into multiple European languages that everyone can use at home.

Dr. Arias-Vasquez states, “New Brain Nutrition will create new evidence-based approaches for making recommendations about nutrition and its links to changing behavior with non-pharmacological solutions.”

When people visit the Eat2beNICE, they can leave their name and email address (held in strict confidence according to new GDPR regulations) to get updates on blog posts, education, and research findings.