New Science Links Food and Happiness

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, "Captain of the Happier Meal," May/June 2010

Joe Hibbeln, M.D., believes our diet is making us depressed, addicted and violent. He thinks he’s found a simple solution.

"I believe in Joe Hibbeln 's work, it should be actively promoted. A UK study by Nick Fisher of the effects of a one- month high Omega-3 diet on a prison population showed mood improvement. The charismatic wit and humour of both Nick and...

He got a job for the first time in 20 years—at a car wash—and he showed up to work every day, says Hibbeln, who recalls: “He came in at one point in the study and pulled $650 out of a sock and says, ‘Doc, this is the most money I’ve had at one time in 25 years. I used to spend all of my panhandling money at the liquor store. I still go there to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, but I don’t crave any of the booze in the store.’” (This never happened the other times Mr. D. went through detox without omega-3s, says Hibbeln.)

As for Mr. D.’s aggression issues: “Here was a guy who’d had an impossibly long record for drunk and disorderly conduct transformed,” says Hibbeln, into “a complete pussycat.”

Diet of evolution

It’s midday and we’re standing in one of the medical center’s public waiting areas, when Hibbeln suddenly gets a smile on his face and announces it’s time for lunch. “EatingWell Magazine offers to take me out to lunch. Most people are smart enough to go to the fanciest restaurant in Bethesda. I have a twisted sense of humor, so we’re going to eat what the military eats.” He laughs.

We take the elevator to the basement, walk down a long hallway to the galley. It looks like any hospital cafeteria. There’s fish on the menu today—cod.
But all that’s left of the fish is a steaming tray of broth.
“Ten minutes till it’s ready,” the lady tells us.
“Glad to see it’s popular,” says Hibbeln.
“Yeah, it is,” she says. “It’s healthy.”
“It’s healthy, there you go,” Hibbeln replies.

Hibbeln chooses pepper steak with rice instead. (His normal lunch is “hardtack [Scandinavian flatbread] and a can of tuna.”) I have the same. Mike Lewis, who has joined us for lunch, selects a salad with soup.

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