Diets That Starve the Brain: Does Yours?

Recorded Webinar

This webinar discusses how dietary patterns that diminish the intake of foods rich in brain critical nutrients may cause inadvertent negative effects on neurological health.

  • Release Date: November 14, 2019
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This product is free for BHN members.

This webinar was presented live on February 14, 2019.

Daily food choices offer opportunities for optimal mental and neurological health. The unique nutritional and metabolic requirements of the brain merit close consideration.  Dietary patterns that diminish the intake of foods rich in brain critical nutrients may cause inadvertent negative effects on neurological health. For example, low consumption of fish in pregnancy to avoid mercury may inadvertently cause neurocognitive deficits due to deficiencies in omega-3 fats and other nutrients. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 are common among vegetarians and low-meat consumers. These deficits are linked to increased risks of self-harm, depression and suboptimal cognitive development. Referral of clients to Registered Dietitian Nutritionists by mental health providers is essential for comprehensive care.

CPEU: 1.0
CPE Level: 2
Learning Need Codes: 4040, 2100, 2070, 2090, 4110
Performance Indicators: 8.1, 4.2, 12.2.1, 8.3

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify brain critical nutrients necessary for optimal mental and neurological health.
  2. Describe dietary patterns likely to induce deficiencies in these nutrients.
  3. Critically analyze research data from psychiatric nutrition literature to generate NCP language in support for use of MNT for treatment of mental health conditions.


Captain, Joseph Hibbeln, MD

CAPT Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D is the Acting Chief, Section of Nutritional Neurosciences, Laboratory of Membrane Biophysics and Biochemistry, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIH, Bethesda Maryland. He is a board certified physician in psychiatry, serves in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and is an Eagle Scout, BSA.

CAPT Hibbeln, M.D. is internationally recognized for originating the field of omega-3 fatty acids in depression and impulsive disorders. The 20th century dramatically changed the dietary oils that comprise the brain creating deficiencies in marine long chain omega-3 fatty acids and excesses in vegetable oil omega-6 fatty acids. Under his direction, the Section on Nutritional Neurosciences (SNN) examines the impact these deficiencies and excesses on adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes and risks for major depression, suicide, addictive and pain disorders. SNN comprehensively integrates data from epidemiological, nutrigenomic, basic and clinical science perspectives to best formulate actionable interventions that will improve public health. SNN seeks to determine if resuming historically normal intakes of these essential fats might substantially reduce emotional distress in modern societies, with a specific focus on Military and Veteran mental health.

CAPT Hibbeln’s work establishing the net nutritional benefits of fish consumption over risks of trace mercury exposure in pregnancy (Lancet 2007) has changed in international policy regarding dietary advice: (World Health Organization 2010, US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and 2015, FDA-Net Effects Document/draft advice, 2014, European Food Standards Agency, 2014). His team recovered and published missing data from two of the largest RCTs ever conducted for omega-6 fats in cardiovascular disease (2013, 2016). Both studies demonstrated increased cardiovascular mortality resulting from lower serum cholesterol with linoleic acid from vegetable oil sources.

CAPT Hibbeln is the recipient of numerous awards including the Wilhelm Normann Metal in 2012. He has published more than 170 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has received more than 35 grants or awards for research funding and continuous funding since 1998 in the Intramural Program of NIAAA.

  • Release Date: November 14, 2019