Following the MedDiet Improves Depression Symptoms in Young Men

Researchers said the results demonstrate the role of a healthy diet in the treatment of depression in young adults.

May. 13, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis

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Adopting the Mediterranean diet can sig­nif­i­cantly con­tribute to improv­ing symp­toms of depres­sion in young men.

This is the most sig­nif­i­cant con­clu­sion of a ran­dom­ized con­trol trial con­ducted by a team of Australian researchers on a group of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

(The study results) sug­gests that med­ical doc­tors and psy­chol­o­gists should con­sider refer­ring depressed young men to a nutri­tion­ist or dietit­ian as an impor­tant com­po­nent of treat­ing clin­i­cal depres­sion.- Jessica Bayes, researcher, University of Technology in Sydney

During 12 weeks, dozens of young patients affected by mod­er­ate to severe depres­sion saw rel­e­vant symp­toms con­nected to their con­di­tion cur­tailed due to the adop­tion of the Mediterranean diet.

According to the study, pub­lished in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results are so sig­nif­i­cant that they high­light the impor­tant role of nutri­tion for the treat­ment of depres­sion and should inform advice given by clin­i­cians to this spe­cific demo­graphic pop­u­la­tion.”

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The trial was com­pleted by 72 young men who were divided into two groups: one adopted the Mediterranean diet, and the other was a con­trol group.

The lat­ter was sub­jected only to befriend­ing ther­apy to rein­force social con­nec­tions. Assessments were con­ducted at the begin­ning of the trial period, after the first six weeks and at the end.

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These assess­ments showed how spe­cific scores meant to mea­sure the con­di­tion were sig­nif­i­cantly higher in the MedDiet group. As a con­se­quence of the healthy diet, the scores related to the patients’ qual­ity of life also improved sig­nif­i­cantly.

We were sur­prised by how will­ing the young men were to take on a new diet,” lead researcher Jessica Bayes of the University of Technology in Sydney’s school of pub­lic health told Neuroscience News. Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet were able to sig­nif­i­cantly change their orig­i­nal diets, under the guid­ance of a nutri­tion­ist, over a short time frame.”

It sug­gests that med­ical doc­tors and psy­chol­o­gists should con­sider refer­ring depressed young men to a nutri­tion­ist or dietit­ian as an impor­tant com­po­nent of treat­ing clin­i­cal depres­sion,” she added.

The Mediterranean diet is plant-based and mainly com­prises veg­eta­bles, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil with mod­er­ate dairy and meat con­sump­tion. During the trial, the patients sig­nif­i­cantly reduced their intake of sugar and processed red meat.

There are lots of rea­sons why sci­en­tif­i­cally we think food affects mood,” Bayes said. For exam­ple, around 90 per­cent of sero­tonin, a chem­i­cal that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes.”

There is emerg­ing evi­dence that these microbes can com­mu­ni­cate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis,” she added. To have ben­e­fi­cial microbes, we need to feed them fiber, which is found in legumes, fruits and veg­eta­bles.”

The link between the Mediterranean diet and depres­sion increas­ingly have been explored over the years.

A 2019 Australian study found sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits were reported by adults under 35 years of age who adopted the healthy diet.

See Also:Med Diet Linked with Better Sleep in University Students

However, the researchers warned that while there is con­vinc­ing obser­va­tional evi­dence for a link between diet qual­ity and depres­sion, the evi­dence for a causal rela­tion­ship is still emerg­ing, par­tic­u­larly in rela­tion to young adults.”

A more exten­sive analy­sis, pub­lished in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2019, looked at 16 pre­vi­ously pub­lished peer-reviewed stud­ies com­par­ing the effects of dietary inter­ven­tions to non-dietary con­trol con­di­tions involv­ing more than 46,000 par­tic­i­pants.

The researchers noted that the results were con­sis­tent with the fact that dietary inter­ven­tions hold promise as a novel inter­ven­tion for reduc­ing symp­toms of depres­sion across the pop­u­la­tion.”

The ben­e­fi­cial effects of the Mediterranean diet on patients with depres­sion seem to extend to older adults as well.

At the 2019 annual meet­ing of the American Psychiatric Association, a study was pre­sented show­ing how adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet might reduce the risk of depres­sion symp­toms later in life.

The study’s find­ings indi­cated that an eat­ing plan with a high con­tent of veg­eta­bles but lit­tle intake of poul­try and alco­hol proved to be the most ben­e­fi­cial.

One of the results of the lat­est research shows how intro­duc­ing the Mediterranean diet as an inter­ven­tion was well-received by the patients them­selves.

Nearly all our par­tic­i­pants stayed with the pro­gram, and many were keen to con­tinue the diet once the study ended, which shows how effec­tive, tol­er­a­ble and worth­while they found the inter­ven­tion,” Bayes con­cluded.



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