Evidence Found Linking Diet and Depression

A new study has established a link between diet and depression by showing that changing to a Mediterranean type of diets full of fruits and vegetables and limiting ultra processed foods can help boost moods in test subjects.

The findings are based on a randomized controlled trial published in PLOS ONE that established symptoms associated with depression declined sharply in a group of subjects who followed a Mediterranean type food pattern for around a month. Respondents reported lowered depression scores and also alleviated anxiety and stress.

In the control group, participants who persited in an eating pattern defined by processed and refined foods and sugary drinks didn’t see an improvement in their depression scores.

Healthy Eating Patterns and Depression

The study established the connection between healthy eating patterns and depression by encouraging participants to take at least six more servings of fruits and vegetables per week as compared to the control group who subsisted mostly on processed foods. This had promising results as increased fruit and vegetable consumption correlated to improved depression symptoms.

The participants also increased intake of whole grains, lean meats, eggs,  legumes, poultry and fish while adding nuts and seeds, olive oil and spices to the diet. Low-fat dairy was also consumed and adherence to the diet was checed using a spectrophotometer that validated the intake of fruits and vegetables.

Questionnaires were used before, during and after the test to monitor depression, anxiety and stress symptoms in the participants.

Food and Mental Health

The findings support a growing body of studies that demonstrate a connection between food and mental health. The study follows a 2013 analysis of data from studies that showed the Mediterranean diet participants benefited from a lower risk of depression.

Another study published in 2017 established that eating patterns rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy and fish lowered the occurrence of depression while diets full of refined grains and processed products, red meat and sugary foods increased chances of depression.

“We have a highly consistent and extensive evidence base from around the globe linking healthier diets to reduced depression risk,” says Felice Jacka, a professor of nutritional and epidemiological psychiatry at Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre in Australia.

The link between diet and depression remains unrelated to other risk factors including education, income, body weight and other behaviors and this cuts across countries, cultures and age groups. Researchers are still excited by the findings as they hold potential for developing novel and more effective intervention techniques.

Dr. Drew Ramsey of Columbia University encouraged having diet and lifestyle patterns as part of routine care as he said,

“Diet is certainly part of the picture, but so are physical activity, good psychological care, medication [when needed] … adequate sleep, adequate exposure to nature and balanced lifestyle. My general take-home message is about having an integrative approach.”