A doctor is using oysters to treat patients with anxiety and depression

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Oysters, along with other types of shellfish, have long been rumoured to have powers far beyond being able to fill you up at a buffet bar. For thousands of years, people have believed that they could do anything, from transporting gods and goddesses, to acting as the ultimate natural aphrodisiac. Though the truth of these claims has always been up for debate, the legends have continued to persist. It’s no wonder that they are still one of the most mystical foods on the planet.

fresh oysters Credit: Pixabay/photo-graphe

Although the oyster rumour mill often makes it hard to tell fact from fiction, news out of Columbia University suggests that there may be even more to the bivalve than we previously suspected. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, a Columbia University assistant professor and psychiatrist, there is strong evidence to suggest that oysters are an excellent alternative treatment for anyone struggling with mental health issues and depression. As a result, Dr Ramsey has himself begun prescribing the shellfish to his patients.

According to an interview Ramsey gave to The New York Times, the main factor is the role of Vitamin B12. This particular vitamin, Ramsey says, is particularly effective at reducing brain shrinkage - a major problem among depressed patients. Ramsey also points to oysters’ high levels of omega-3, deficiencies of which have been linked to elevated risk of depression and suicide, as further evidence for prescribing them to patients.

Ramsey himself has long been an advocate of the link between diet and mental health. The author of several books, including "Eat Complete," "Fifty Shades of Kale," and "The Happiness Diet," he is a big believer in the so-called "food mood connection," and has long held the belief that poor diet can ultimately lead to poorer mental as well as physical well being.

Ramsey’s unconventional approach seems to be producing results. One patient, who came to Ramsey with a mild case of depression and anxiety, took his advice extremely seriously, consuming a whopping 36 oysters over the weekend following his appointment. However, in an interview with The New York Times, the patient in question revealed how the extreme oyster consumption is “one part of the whole package that helps alleviate my depression and helps me to feel better.”

Although the oyster advocacy certainly marks Ramsey out from the crowd, it’s important to note that it isn’t the only way that he seeks to treat his patient. The New York Times report that  “Nutritional psychiatrists like Dr. Ramsey prescribe antidepressants and other medications, where appropriate, and engage in talk therapy and other traditional forms of counseling” alongside their dietary advice. But, importantly, they also argue that “fresh and nutritious food can be a potent addition to the mix of available therapies.” It may sound like an unusual way to solve a medical problem, but maybe it isn’t as far-fetched as it first sounds.