Following a Mediterranean diet could help prevent depression, groundbreaking research published in a scientific journal suggests.
Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, plant-based foods and fish may cut the risk of developing the condition by approximately one third, according to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
A diet high in saturated fats, sugar and processed foods was correspondingly associated with an increased likelihood of depression.
Lead author Dr. Camille Lassale, from the department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, announced “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.
“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,” she stated.
The researchers analyzed data from 41 studies, including four which examined the link between a traditional Mediterranean diet and mental health among a total of 36,556 adults.
33% lower risk of developing depression with Mediterranean diet
They found that the subjects who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 33% lower risk of developing depression over the next eight to twelve years compared to those whose diet least resembled this cuisine.
As a rule, the Mediterranean diet is mainly based around plants and seafood, as it is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, unprocessed grains, and seafood while low in meat and meat products (only a few times per month).
Adherents to the diet also consume a reduced amount of dairy products.
These ingredients are bound together by olive oil, an essential ingredient when it comes to defining the basics of healthy Greek food and the Mediterranean diet.
Five of the studies looked at the impact of a so-called “inflammatory food” diet on mental health in 32,908 adults across the globe.
A diet low in saturated fats, sugars and processed food was linked with a 24% reduced risk of developing depression over the next five to twelve years.
Dr. Lassale noted that “A pro-inflammatory diet can induce systemic inflammation, and this can directly increase the risk for depression.”
She also made the striking claim that “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.”
The results mean “there are now strong arguments” for diet to be considered as part of the treatment for mental health issues, said co-author Tasnime Akbaraly.
The researcher added “Our study findings support routine dietary counseling as part of a doctor’s office visit, especially with mental health practitioners.
“This is of importance at a patient’s level, but also at public health level, especially in a context where poor diet is now recognized to be the leading cause of early death across middle and high-income countries and at the same time mental disorders are the leading cause of disability,” she concluded.