World-first Australian study finds Mediterranean diet can help treat depression

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st February 2017

A study conducted by Deakin University has shown for the first time that improving what you eat through following a Mediterranean diet can help treat major depression.

The findings have come out of Deakin’s world-first Food and Mood Centre, which studies the connection between what we eat and mental health.

Food and Mood Centre Director, Professor Felice Jacka, said the study results offers a possible new treatment approach to 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.

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

How the study worked

In the study, adults with major depressive disorder were recruited and randomly assigned to receive either social support or support from a clinical dietitian, over a three-month period.

The dietary group received information and assistance to improve the quality of their current diets, with a focus on increasing the consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts, while reducing their consumption of unhealthy ‘extras’ foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks.

The results of the study showed that participants in the dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over the three-month period, compared to those in the social support group.

At the end of the trial, a third of those in the dietary support group met criteria for remission of major depression, compared to 8 percent of those in the social support group.

“These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change,” Professor Jacka said.

“Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms,” she said.


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