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Investing in good nutrition for seafarers brings a wealth of physical, mental and financial benefits for shipping companies, MCTC conference reveals

With all the crucial operations and decision-making that goes into running a vessel, the importance of good food and nutrition can sometimes end up overlooked.

But it goes hand in hand with investing in crew members, their career development and promoting good mental health. It can drive forward increased productivity and energy among seafarers, as well as a whole range of other benefits.

The issue of how important good nutrition is and how to achieve it was discussed at leading catering management and culinary training provider MCTC’s Health and Nutrition Conference, held virtually due to current coronavirus restrictions.
Managing Director at MCTC Christian Ioannou introduced the 420-plus delegates to the conference and explained how he started the company to change people’s mindset surrounding good nutrition. He strongly believes the rise in diet-related conditions is down to the amount of added preservatives that is added to ready-made products nowadays.

MCTC offers full catering management to shipping companies, as well as a full range of training programmes for chefs and cooks working onboard ships.

Christian Ioannou, MD of MCTC

It is important companies realise the benefits that providing good nutrition can offer to crews and vessel operations, delegates heard during the conference.

It is a common myth that cooking your own products will end up costing vessels more, but by cooking self-made meals over ready-made it can actually end up in cost efficiencies for companies, MCTC explained.

There are a range of benefits that cooking self-made products offers. They contain fewer calories, lower refined sugar levels, fewer artificial ingredients, and it is less expensive, food nutritionist at MCTC, Nichole Stylianou said.
Examples of ready-made products that achieve better nutritional and financial value when freshly made are salad dressings, breads, cakes and cookies, and stocks, soups and sauces. Buying these products ready-made will cost a lot more and will run out faster.

Good nutrition can be achieved through eating a balanced diet, including nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Ensuring you are eating a balanced diet can be overwhelming but small, gradual changes can lead to the best results, Ms Stylianou explained.
Seafarers can often be resistant to adopting a more nutritional diet if they have been used to relying on sugary foods and snacks and eating a more fatty diet, but by introducing small changes more slowly, they can be more open to the change.
Good nutrition can be achieved by planning meals, following a weekly menu, planning at least one meat-free meal a week, enjoying grains more often, making plans for leftovers, and knowing what your colleagues like to eat. You do not need to eat less to achieve a balanced diet, you just need to eat better, she added.

As well as helping seafarers to stay healthy and reducing the risk of diet-related illness, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, good nutrition can also offer a wealth of mental health benefits.

Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) offers seafarers a 24/7 helpline to access trained psychological support; tailored support to companies and their crews; and conferences and round table discussions focusing on wellbeing and mental health support.

Charles Watkins, MD of Mental Health Support Solutions

During the conference, MHSS explained the correlation between good mental health and good nutrition and explained the positive effects consuming higher levels of magnesium and zinc can have on an individual’s mood.

Clinical psychologist and managing director of MHSS, Charles Watkins told delegates how zinc deficiencies can actually lead to mental health problems, including depression, increased anxiety, irritability, and induced deficits in social behavior.
Clinical studies have shown that low levels of zinc intake contributes to the symptoms of depression and patients suffering from depression have a lower serum zinc level.

Mr Watkins revealed how past studies have actually revealed that an increase in zinc, either through diet or supplements, have provided a natural anti-depressant effect and enhanced the mood of individuals.

It is also understood that consumption of magnesium-rich products can also offer positive effects to symptoms of depression. A recent random clinical trial in a population of adults diagnosed with mild-to-moderate depression found that the consumption of 248 mg of magnesium per day for six weeks resulted in a clinically-significant six-point decrease (p < 0.001) in depressive symptoms, as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) compared to those receiving a placebo treatment.

We are all, no doubt, aware of how consuming too much sugar can lead to unhealthy habits and putting on weight, but too much sugar can also be a key factor in depression and anxiety as well.

Multiple studies have found a link between diets high in sugar and depression. Overconsumption of sugar can trigger imbalances in certain brain chemicals. These imbalances can lead to depression and can even lead to a long-risk of developing a mental health disorder.

Low blood levels of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with depression, implying a role in mood disorders, Mr Watkins explained.
Source: By Mr. Christian Ioannou, Managing Director at MCTC and Mr. Charles Watkins, Clinical psychologist and managing director of MHSS

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