'An Apple a Day'?: Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Psychotherapists Report Poor Literacy for Nutritional Medicine: International Survey Spanning 52 Countries

Nutrients. 2021 Mar 2;13(3):822. doi: 10.3390/nu13030822.


Nutritional interventions have beneficial effects on certain psychiatric disorder symptomatology and common physical health comorbidities. However, studies evaluating nutritional literacy in mental health professionals (MHP) are scarce. This study aimed to assess the across 52 countries. Surveys were distributed via colleagues and professional societies. Data were collected regarding self-reported general nutrition knowledge, nutrition education, learning opportunities, and the tendency to recommend food supplements or prescribe specific diets in clinical practice. In total, 1056 subjects participated in the study: 354 psychiatrists, 511 psychologists, 44 psychotherapists, and 147 MHPs in-training. All participants believed the diet quality of individuals with mental disorders was poorer compared to the general population (p < 0.001). The majority of the psychiatrists (74.2%) and psychologists (66.3%) reported having no training in nutrition. Nevertheless, many of them used nutrition approaches, with 58.6% recommending supplements and 43.8% recommending specific diet strategies to their patients. Only 0.8% of participants rated their education regarding nutrition as 'very good.' Almost all (92.9%) stated they would like to expand their knowledge regarding 'Nutritional Psychiatry.' There is an urgent need to integrate nutrition education into MHP training, ideally in collaboration with nutrition experts to achieve best practice care.

Keywords: diet; education; mental health professionals; nutrition; nutritional psychiatry; psychiatric disorders; psychiatrists; psychologists; psychotherapists; supplements.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Literacy
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health
  • Psychiatry / methods*
  • Psychology, Clinical
  • Psychotherapists*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires