Mediterranean Diet Linked to 33-Percent Lower Depression Risk

A new study uncovered more evidence that diet quality influences mental health.

Oct. 8, 2018
By Mary West

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Researchers from the U.K., Aus­tralia and Spain explored the link between the risk of depres­sion and fol­low­ing a high-qual­ity diet rich in plant foods like the Mediter­ranean diet (Med­Diet). They found close adher­ence to the eat­ing plan could sub­stan­tially reduce the like­li­hood of devel­op­ing the men­tal ill­ness.

There is com­pelling evi­dence to show that there is a rela­tion­ship between the qual­ity of your diet and your men­tal health.- Camille Las­sale, Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion reports that 8.1 per­cent of Amer­i­can adults suf­fered from depres­sion in a given two-week period from 2013 to 2016. Symp­toms include poor sleep and appetite, as well as low mood and a loss of inter­est in life. Because med­ica­tion is only effec­tive in one-third of cases, the researchers believe mod­i­fy­ing risk fac­tors, such as diet, has value.
See more: Olive Oil Health Ben­e­fits

There is com­pelling evi­dence to show that there is a rela­tion­ship between the qual­ity of your diet and your men­tal health. This rela­tion­ship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can, in turn, affect your mood,” said lead author Camille Las­sale of Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don Epi­demi­ol­ogy and Pub­lic Health.

We aggre­gated results from a large num­ber of stud­ies and there is a clear pat­tern that fol­low­ing a health­ier, plant-rich, anti-inflam­ma­tory diet can help in the pre­ven­tion of depres­sion.”

The research was a review of 41 stud­ies. Of these, four involved an assess­ment of the asso­ci­a­tion between adher­ence to the Med­Diet and depres­sion in 36,556 adults. They showed that peo­ple who fol­lowed the eat­ing plan closely were one-third less likely to develop the men­tal ill­ness than those who fol­lowed it the least. In addi­tion, the con­sump­tion of a pro-inflam­ma­tory diet with large quan­ti­ties of sugar, processed food and sat­u­rated fat was tied to a higher depres­sion risk.


Accord­ing to the researchers, fol­low­ing a diet that avoids pro-inflam­ma­tory foods while favor­ing anti-inflam­ma­tory foods plen­ti­ful in vit­a­mins, min­er­als, polyphe­nols and fiber pro­tects against depres­sion. Such an eat­ing plan includes fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains, olive oil, legumes, nuts and fish.

A pro-inflam­ma­tory diet can induce sys­temic inflam­ma­tion, and this can directly increase the risk for depres­sion. There is also emerg­ing evi­dence that shows that the rela­tion­ship between the gut and brain plays a key role in men­tal health and that this axis is mod­u­lated by gas­troin­testi­nal bac­te­ria, which can be mod­i­fied by our diet,” explained Las­sale.

In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Eugene Charles, New York chi­ro­prac­tor, applied kine­si­ol­o­gist and author of Anti­dotes for Indis­cre­tions, elab­o­rated about how aspects of the diet have an effect on depres­sion.

The Med­Diet is rich in fiber, which is a pre­bi­otic that feeds ben­e­fi­cial intesti­nal bac­te­ria, thus pro­mot­ing their growth. These bac­te­ria play a role in the body’s pro­duc­tion of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, espe­cially sero­tonin and gamma-aminobu­tyric acid, both of which ele­vate mood,” Charles noted.

In addi­tion to gut health, the diet con­tributes in other ways to help pre­vent depres­sion. One is that the brain is pre­dom­i­nantly fat; there­fore, the healthy fat from olive oil and fatty fish enhance brain func­tion. For years I have taught my patients to use olive oil in their cof­fee to make it a more healthy drink, a mood ele­va­tor and an excep­tional nat­ural rem­edy’ for depres­sion.”

Although the con­nec­tion between nutri­tious foods and a lower depres­sion risk has been estab­lished, a need exists for more inter­ven­tion stud­ies eval­u­at­ing how improv­ing diet can ben­e­fit men­tal health. The study was pub­lished in the jour­nal Mol­e­c­u­lar Psy­chi­a­try.

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