Ali-Menti, a laboratory on mental health and the relationship to food

Ali-Menti is the original title of a laboratory included in the Let’s network project (for psychophysical well-being), launched by the two associations operating between Pescara and Chieti, Cosma, leader – chaired by Tiziana Arista, and Percorsi – chaired by Eugenio Dicher

The initiative includes meetings with the dietician Luisa Andreacola, medical director of the ASL of Pescara (metabolic diseases and nutritional rehabilitation) and the doctor of psychology Miriam Inguardia, to deepen a fundamental subject but often totally underestimated, even ignored: the relationship with food and, in particular, people with mental health problems.

“There is a series of foods that can be used in patients who have psychiatric and psychological problems or depressive states that can represent an excellent adjuvant to pharmacotherapy because they act on the serotoninergic system”, explains Luisa Andreacola, “Today ‘today it has almost become fashionable to say that dark chocolate can have a positive effect on the mood, but it is not the only one. Others can be blueberries, bananas or nuts (better almonds). There are also spices or aromatic herbs or medicinal plants that are often overlooked but just as useful. And here I am thinking of basil, rosemary, pepper, cinnamon. The latter, for example , also helps a lot in the prevention of obesity, especially in diabetic patients or those taking medications that predispose to weight gain.The purpose of these meetings is to arouse interest in these subjects, particularly in close to the relatives or relatives of these people”.

Andreacola highlights the particular success of the project, especially for younger patients, who thus have at their disposal tools that are not (only) drugs but can use the food normally consumed, daily. By knowing better the properties of each food, obvious results can be obtained. On one aspect, however, the dietician is very drastic: the need to reduce caloric intake.

“It is essential to limit sugar, snacks, carbonated drinks, industrial juices and, conversely, to try to stimulate people to have direct and correct contact with food. But it is true for everyone, both patients and people who do not have pathologies and especially for children and young people”.

The role of food in emotions and cognitive functions is, on the other hand, the aspect investigated by Inguardia: “We eat because we feel empty, because we are afraid, but it is a behavior that often, even not at a pathological level, it is part of everyone’s life in times of stress or difficulty”, explains the doctor of psychology, “As far as cognitive functions are concerned, however, food is linked to memory and to the attention. Each food contains micronutrients that naturally support these functions. However, it is essential not to understand food as a reward, otherwise it is no longer linked to a need but to an emotional necessity. As for the Ali-Menti laboratory of the Let’s network project, we will also have the development of the autonomy of the patients who, therefore, will be oriented on the choice of food, on the ability to do their shopping. The data will then be evaluated through tests to analyze the success, or not, of our initiative at the level of nutritional psycho-education”.

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