Twin health issues – the links between mental health and obesity

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People suffering from mental health disorders and those with obesity both experience stigma that often prevents them talking about their health and seeking help. Not only that, but one often leads to the other and dietician Melanie McGrice says weight and mental health are a ‘chicken and egg’ paradigm.

Ms McGrice, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said research has shown a link between the two conditions.

More than five million Australians suffer from obesity and one in five Australians suffer from a mental illness this year, so addressing these issues are a priority, she said.

“Improving weight often improves self-esteem and mental health, but simultaneously, improving mental health can also improve weight management. There is clearly a relationship between a nutritious, healthy diet, physical activity, a healthy lifestyle and reduced mental health issues.”

Nutrition is one way for people to take control of their health, as having the correct food and nutrients can help maintain a healthy weight and also contributes to a healthy mind.
Ms McGrice said there is growing evidence that nutrition plays a role in the development, management and prevention of mental illnesses.

“Research has highlighted certain nutrients and foods for their protective role in mental health including good fats, minerals like zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, iron, B vitamins and antioxidant vitamins like C and E. Conversely alcohol, saturated fats, and processed foods have a negative impact on mental health.”

Ms McGrice says anecdotal evidence from her practice shows improved diet and consequently improved weight management has a positive impact on mental health.

“I had a client suffering with post-natal depression. Part of her frustration was the loss of her pre-baby body shape. We’ve been working together on optimising her diet, and she has now reached her pre-pregnancy weight, and is in a healthy eating routine. Most importantly, she has her energy levels and passion for life back again.”

Surgery is also another option that people look to when they are wanting to get in control of their weight, and two Gold Coast surgeons are campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of obesity.

Husband and wife Dr Jacobus Jordaan and Dr Nova Jordaan, created this campaign to encourage both patients and general practitioners to talk about obesity.

“Our new community engagement campaign is about educating those who suffer from obesity, giving them the facts, showing them treatment options and inspiring them to have the confidence and courage to seek help,” said Dr Jacobus Jordaan.

Dr Jacobus Jordaan is a Principal Researcher for Gold Coast Private Hospital for the Bariatric Registry of Australia, and wants people to know that losing weight is not just to look good, it’s about taking your health into your own hands with informed and educated action.

“I encourage people suffering from obesity to start talking and seek help before health issues spiral out of control. Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy.”

With the links between obesity and mental health, and the different ways to tackle obesity, both dieticians and surgeons are encouraging Australians to keep talking about these health issues to break down stigma’s that surround them.

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