Mediterranean Diet Linked to 33 percent Lower Depression Risk

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

By Mary West
Oct. 8, 2018 07:37 UTC

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.
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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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