As silly adverts go, the one I heard on the radio the other day takes the oatcake.

It ridicules people who eat healthy snacks and tells them to swallow a multi-vitamin instead.

Pill popping, after all, has been the preferred medical treatment since pills began and now some supplement companies see fit to convince us that you don't have to give up the booze, the fags and the sugar in order to be healthy.

In my view,supplements do have an important role to play, but we must all realise that no vitamin or mineral can make up for an abusive diet or toxic lifestyle.

Speaking of abuse, the World Health Organisation estimates that 400 million people are suffering from mental health problems, many of which are related to alcohol or drug addictions. Did you know that alcohol is the number one killer of young men in Europe?

The number of people addicted to seemingly less innocuous substances such as those present in our food, must be unquantifiable.

What exactly makes an addict? There are various theories about the underlying physiological processes of addiction, whether it be to coffee, chocolate or curry.

Some may have a genetic pre-disposition to producing smaller amounts of certain brain chemicals which makes them feel low and tend to be more attracted to substances which stimulate them.

Food sensitivities are often hidden factor in addictions and can be either the cause or symptom of this condition. Others suffer from nutritional deficiencies which can result in cravings and are associated with serious mental health problems. Very low fat diets, for example, can lead to depression hence the growing number of women joining the thin-but-Prozaced brigade.

Another plausible theory for addictions is that of persistent low blood sugar, where individuals seek specific substances to regenerate their flagging blood sugar levels.

Consider that the average consumption of sugar has gone up to 20 teaspoons per day or consider that synthetic chemicals and the wrong kind of fats are the order of the day.

One could almost argue we are driving our children into the arms of the drug pushers. Ecstasy or Ritalin the controversial Attention Deficit Disorder drug just take your pick.

A nutrition-based approach to mental health combines dietary changes with nutritional supplementation in order to correct bio-chemical imbalances. This means, if you change your food, you can change your mood.

Explore ways of doing this in Amanda Geary 's excellent The Food And Mood Handbook (Thorsons,£8.99).

Amanda works as a nutritional therapist in Brighton and Lewes. Her next Workshop takes place on June 2 at the University Of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton.

For details,call 01273 678228.