Australian government’s NHMRC to finance study on diet-links to depression

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th November 2012

A world-first trial to test if a healthy Mediterranean diet can improve the mental health of people with depression is being conducted by Deakin University researchers in Australia, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The research team from Deakin’s School of Medicine is now calling on people in Melbourne aged over 18 years with major depression to sign on for the trial which is funded for three years by the NHMRC.

The trial will involve participants with depression in either a three month diet program or social support program to compare the effects. The participants in the diet trial will consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes, and low in processed foods, sugar, salt and saturated fat.

According to Deakin University, depression is predicted to become the second-most common cause of disability in the world by 2020. Ideally, if the trial is successful it could mean that depression sufferers can better manage their mental health without reliance on prescription drugs.

Each program comprises seven 45—60 minute sessions at the research base in Collingwood, with trials soon to follow at at Barwon Health in Geelong.

Associate Professor Felice Jacka from Deakin University, who is leading the study, said that there is an “urgent need” to look at new ways of treating depression.

“While there is now compelling new evidence to suggest that diet plays an important role in the risk of developing depression, there is no existing information on the impact of an improved diet on existing depressive illness,” Professor Jacka said.

“Through this study we want to answer the critically important and frequently asked question ‘If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?’”

The trial builds on previous research that has looked at the connection between diet and mental health, including previous studies by Associate Professor Jacka.

“I have been involved in five large-scale studies that have examined the connection between aspects of diet and mental health. The results of these studies have linked a healthy diet with a reduced likelihood of having depression,” she said.

“It is now time to test whether improving someone’s diet makes them feel better if they are already depressed,” Professor Jacka concluded.


Mediterranean diet