Yesterday morning I woke up with more new message in my inbox than usual. WOOoAH how damn popular I am!? my ego suggested. Opening them, my self-enthousiasm quickly switched to sadness.
“Hey , did you hear the news? Apparently Anthony Bourdain is dead!’’ (Anthony Bourdain is a chef, writer, storyteller, one-of-a-kind tv host, world traveler and socially engaged personality)
I already thought to myself that, although I have a lot of respect for the accomplishment of some key people, I am not one to idolize humans. Bourdain was there to prove me wrong. The guy was clearly a passionate, brilliant and sensible human being. The raw, no-bullshit type with a lot of intensity, just like I love it. He was for me a badass old wolf with whom you want to discuss life, food, music, love and the world’s injustices, in front of satisfying meal and a bottle of whiskey. And I always loved how food, travels and human encounters are deeply interconnected in his approach.
Reading my friend’s messages, my brain start spinning bringing up hypothetical circumstances of his death.
1. The first thing that came to my mind was: He was pretty young, can’t be a death of old age. (discarded)
2. Cancer? From what I know, he wasn’t fighting any cancer. (discarded)
3. Could be a sudden heart attack. (plausible)
4. Damn it… Suicide… ?
Even though his TV shows are often infused with humour and joy, I always felt that Bourdain was carrying a lot within himself. It took me a short Google search to validate the suicide hypothesis. As a tribute to him, I started to read multiple articles about him. One article on his death was stating that the level of suicides increased of 30% in the United-States since 1999… 45 000 victims per year! And it’s the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally. A statistic that filled me with surprise and grief. Which such numbers, we definitely need to address the problem as a society and identify the causes of such uneasiness.
While the problem is clearly too vast and complex for me to understand it all perfectly, it however felt like the perfect timing to share on a subject I have been reading on lately.
Although the information isn’t widely spread yet, evidence is steadily growing for the relation between dietary quality and mental health.
“Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.’’1
“It is now known that many mental health conditions are caused by inflammation in the brain which ultimately causes our brain cells to die. This inflammatory response starts in our gut and is associated with a lack of nutrients from our food such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are all essential for the optimum functioning of our bodies.’’ 2
In summary, what you put in your belly directly affects your brain. An inadequate diet, more precisely one rich in processed food (artificial additives) and sugar or that is lacking of nutrients, could lead to, or worsen symptoms of mood disorders (such as depression).
I don’t think nutrition is the only factor that has effects on our mental health, the problem is more complex than that and we can’t keep quiet the problem of the social pressure, but it is sure a damn good subject to explore. And changing one’s personal diet is definitely way easier than changing an entire society’s mentality and way of living. With these alarming suicide statistics we sure could benefit from short-term improvement solutions. Therefore, the sad death of such a food enthusiast seemed for me to be the perfect timing to bring this to your attention.
So let’s celebrate food through life and life through food!
Rest in peace you Legend <3
(In case you lack of focus, I am not linking Bourdain’s death to a lack nutrients.)
If you want to learn more about Bourdain’s artwork, I recommend you watch his TV shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations. They have been removed from Netflix but I bet that with this recent event, there going to put it back. Otherwise, his book Kitchen Confidential is a direct access to the bottom and ”behind the doors” scene of the gastronomy industry. Shocking and entertaining!
If you want to learn more on the link between nutrition and depression or mood disorder, you can read on nutritional psychiatry. This article on Harvard Health Publishing’s website is a good start and leads to a couple of related articles and studies.