Natural Health Bill a bitter pill – Julia Rucklidge

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, University of Canterbury Clinical psychologist Prof Julia Rucklidge outlines her concerns over legislation to control natural health products.

Flickr: Yingcheep Atchanont
Flickr: Yingcheep Atchanont

An except (read in full here):

Julia Rucklidge: Natural Health Bill a bitter pill for nutrient sector

Mental illness is on the rise. Figures reveal crisis referrals from 2010 to 2015 have increased, often substantially. The Auckland DHB saw an increase from fewer than 2000 referrals in 2010 to more than 6000 in 2015. Alongside this rise, the number of people on disability benefits as a direct consequence of an underlying mental illness has quadrupled over the last two decades.

How are we addressing this problem? Our healthcare system operates within a medical model. This means psychiatric medications are typically offered first, followed by therapies and other support. Our reliance on medications is evident from increasing rates of prescriptions. About half a million New Zealanders – one in 10 – take antidepressants.

Given that this medical approach is universal across Western society, one would expect this is working well. Indeed, in some cases, these treatments save lives. But if a treatment is truly effective, shouldn’t rates of disorder and disability caused by the illness be decreasing rather than increasing?

Together with international researchers, my lab at the University of Canterbury has been documenting the impact of vitamins and minerals (known collectively as micronutrients) on mental illness. There are dozens of randomised controlled trials showing the benefits of micronutrients for reducing aggression in prisoners, slowing cognitive decline, helping treat depression, stress, anxiety, and ADHD – with minimal side effects.

Any day now, the Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill – meant to protect the public from harm – will be before Parliament for its final reading.

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