Nutrition and Mental Health – The Research

Nutrition and Variation in Research Results 

Ruth Leyse-Wallace PhD

            Assumptions are everywhere, even in scientific research.Often nutritional status of the participants is not reported in research studies. If nutritional status of participants within or between groups is not the same, this may account for some of the unexplained variation in results.  

            One assumption is often that individuals accepted into a scientific study and randomly assigned to either group, are equal. Equal means alike in significant ways – ways that may make a difference.  For instance two groups may be equal in males and females, in age groups of participants, in health, race or culture, etc.  If a group of mostly males was compared to a group of mostly females, the investigators could not be sure the results were related to the treatment.  Results may have been affected by the fact males were affected differently than females.

            In other words, results may vary depending on the equality of the participants in each group. The variation in outcomes observed in research is often not understood or accounted for. This variation “muddies the waters” when drawing conclusions.

            Hypothetically, if a nutrient which affects mood (or other aspect of mental status) is at different levels in individuals who are receiving the research treatment (whether the treatment is a drug, cognitive therapy, or ECT, etc,), how do researchers know if any variation in results was due to the treatment or to the difference in nutritional status?  

            Even though determination of nutritional status is an incomplete science determination, consideration, and report of nutritional status in reports of clinical research has potential for explaining some of the observed and unexplained variation in results.  Nutrients that affect mental status include omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamin B-12 (cobalamin), vitamin C (ascorbic acid) , vitamin B-1 (thiamin), zinc, and others.Variation in results of scientific experiments may be explained if nutritional status was determined instead of assumed to be equal.

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