Can The Mediterranean Diet Treat Depression?

It’s not a new discovery that certain foods can have certain effects on our emotions, but the latest research from Deakin University shows an interesting link between the Mediterranean diet and mental health. 

Published recently in the international journal BMC Medicine, researchers at Deakin University have found that the Mediterranean diet popular in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal can help reduce symptoms of depression in patients, to the point of remission.

Fresh findings

Putting dozens of patients with major depressive disorders to the test, researchers found that after 12 weeks of eating the Mediterranean diet, one third of the participants reported a significant improvement in their overall mood and depressive symptoms.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil – most of the things we already know we should be eating regularly.

Director of Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre, Professor Felice Jacka, said the results offered a possible new approach to treating depression.

“We’ve known for some time that there is a clear association between the quality of people’s diets and their risk for depression,” Professor Jacka said.

“This is the case across countries, cultures and age groups, with healthy diets associated with reduced risk, and unhealthy diets associated with increased risk for depression.

“However, this is the first randomised controlled trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can actually treat clinical depression.”

The study

In order to achieve as accurate results as possible, researchers assessed over 67 participants as they reduced their intake of refined cereals, sugary drinks, sweets, and fried food, and embraced the Mediterranean diet.


Add dietitians to mental health care teams?

The study suggested that dietitian support should be made available for those experiencing depression.

“It also supports the previous extensive research from human population studies and animal research, suggesting that diet is a key determinant of mental and brain health,” Professor Jacka said.

“Mental disorders account for the leading cause of disability worldwide, with depression accounting for the large proportion of that burden.

“While approximately half of sufferers are helped by currently available medical and psychological therapies, new treatment options for depression are urgently needed.

“Importantly, depression also increases the risk of and, in turn, is also increased by common physical illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Successfully improving the quality of patients’ diets would also benefit these illnesses.”

For more information on the report, click here.

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