Mental Health FAQs

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Will using my aluminum pots and pans cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Can some nutrients delay or prevent dementia?

My son has ADHD. Will a gluten-free diet help manage this condition?

Do essential fatty acid supplements help children with ADHD?

Are food additives and preservatives making children hyperactive?

When I’m stressed all I want to do is eat and I gain too much weight. My friend always loses weight when she’s stressed. Why is this?


Will using my aluminum pots and pans cause Alzheimer’s disease?

No. There is no link between using aluminum cookware and getting Alzheimer's disease.  Only a very small amount of aluminum from cooking utensils is actually released into food – and our bodies do not absorb much of that aluminum.

Aluminum comes from many sources:

  • Tea, coffee, and grains
  • Aluminum cookware, foil, or utensils
  • Processed foods such as pancakes, biscuits, corn bread, chewing gum and muffins
  • Food additives
  • Medications such as antacids
  • Drinking water

A healthy person can safely manage up to 7 grams of aluminum per day. Most people take in much less than this from all sources and only a very small amount of this is used by the body.   This means that daily aluminum exposure is far below levels that are harmful.

For more information see: Aluminum and Human Health, Health Canada

Can some nutrients delay or prevent dementia?

Maybe. Dementia is a gradual decline in mental ability where performing the activities of daily living becomes difficult. Several nutrients have been studied to see if they can help prevent dementia.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E might be helpful in preventing brain cell damage.  Currently there is not enough evidence to suggest that taking supplements of these vitamins will prevent dementia. It’s best to get these antioxidants from foods. Food sources include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and green tea.

B Vitamins: Studies on B vitamins like folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 show some promising results. They may help improve memory, prevent depression and maintain brain health. Some research suggests that these vitamins may also help prevent or delay the progress of dementia. However, much more research is needed before we can make any recommendations for B vitamin supplements and mental health.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A number of studies have found that eating omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout and mackerel, may protect brain function in older adults.

To get the benefits of all of these nutrients:

  • Choose a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Pay attention to the number and size of portions you enjoy.
  • Enjoy fruits and vegetables, including bright, orange and dark green coloured ones.
  • Eat whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables, oils and fatty fish.

My son has ADHD. Will a gluten-free diet help manage this condition?

No. A gluten-free diet cannot help manage Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a behaviour-related condition that includes impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and lack of attention.

A gluten-free diet excludes all wheat, rye, and barley products and other foods containing gluten.

People who have celiac disease need a gluten-free diet. This is because someone with this condition reacts to the gluten protein, which damages the intestine.  Children who have undiagnosed celiac disease may suffer from the same symptoms as children with ADHD. This is why some people believe that children who have ADHD should not eat products with gluten.  

For children with celiac disease, going on a gluten free diet will help them manage this allergy and their behaviour will improve. For a child with ADHD, a gluten-free diet will not help.

If you think your child’s diet is causing ADHD symptoms, talk to your doctor.

For more information about celiac disease:  Canadian Celiac Association

Do essential fatty acid supplements help children with ADHD?

No. There is not enough proof to support the use of essential fatty acid supplements in ADHD. Most essential fatty acid supplements (omega-3 and omega-6 fats) come in the form of fish oil supplements. Children should only take fish oil supplements if they are being monitored by their doctor.

It is better to focus on food sources of the essential fatty acids:

  • Enjoy 2 servings per week of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
  • Include nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseed as part of snacks and meals regularly.

Are food additives and preservatives making children hyperactive?

Maybe. Some studies have shown that certain additives, like food colouring, may trigger hyperactive behaviour. There is also research that shows that children who have ADHD or other behavioural problems may be more sensitive to food additives. 

A food additive is a chemical added to food to help make the food look better, increase its shelf life, improve its texture or to add colour and taste. Food additives are regulated by Health Canada.

Some foods that contain additives that may cause hyperactivity are canned soups, boxed puddings and cake mixes, jams, jellies, flavoured yogurts, pop and sauces. 

If you think certain foods are causing hyperactivity in your children, speak to their doctor before eliminating foods from their diet.

When I’m stressed all I want to do is eat and I gain too much weight. My friend always loses weight when she’s stressed. Why is this?

Everybody reacts differently to stress. Studies have shown that stress can cause chemical reactions in the body that either increase or decrease appetite (the desire to eat). More research is needed to better understand the relationship between eating behaviour and stress.

Many people tend to overeat when stressed. This provides comfort. But it is a temporary solution. Overeating can lead to weight gain and negative feelings. This only makes your problems worse.

If you react to stress by overeating or reaching for sweet, salty and fatty foods try:

  • Keeping healthy snacks handy: Enjoy fruit, cut-up veggies, and high fibre snacks like whole grain crackers or popcorn when you feel stressed.
  • Being active: Exercising releases chemicals that can improve your mood and reduce your feelings of stress.
  • Talking it out: Have a chat with a trusted friend or family member. Maybe they can help you with the activities and responsibilities that are causing stress in your life.
  • Cutting down on caffeine: Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and cola soft drinks. Caffeine disrupts sleep and makes stress worse. Choose water, herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee, low fat milk or 100% fruit juice instead.

For more information:

A Menu for Good Mental Health, Unlock Food

Alzheimer Society Canada

Attention Deficit Disorders, Canadian Mental Health Association

Last Update – November 19, 2018

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