VICTORIA, Australia — Feeling down? A change in diet might just be what the doctor orders. A new study finds that following the Mediterranean diet, which has been highly cited for its healthy benefits, may also help to fight depression.
It’s great news for anyone who already follows the clean-eating diet, and also for anyone looking for a healthy lifestyle that helps both mind and body.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by lots of produce and healthy fats, with moderate amounts of protein and low amounts of refined foods and sugars. Think olive oil, fish, lots of fresh veggies, and the occasionally heart-healthy glass of wine.
The study was conducted by researchers at Deakin University in Australia and published in the journal BMC Medicine last month. Researchers confirmed that switching to a healthy diet could, in fact, reduce depression, and sticking with one that is similar to the Mediterranean diet could reduce depression by 30 percent.
“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 Felice Jacka, Director of Deakin’s Food and Mood Centre, said in a release. “However, this is the first randomised controlled trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can actually treat clinical depression.”
The study examined 166 adults with major depressive disorder. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either social support or support from a clinical dietitian over a three-month period.
Those who received dietary support followed a diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains while avoiding processed foods, sugars, fast food, etc. They were also counseled in mindful eating habits, got nutritional counseling, and were assisted in goal setting.
Researchers determined that those in the dietary group showed a significant decrease in depression symptoms compared to the other group. In fact, a third of the dietary group participants even met criteria for remission of their disorder, while just 8 percent in the social group had such results.
“These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change,” Jacka said. “Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.”
Past studies have found that following a Mediterranean diet might lower the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body, therefore lowering the risk of heart disease. The diet has also been linked to a lower incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and a reduced mortality rate overall. The makeup of the diet also seems to cross over into mental well being as well.
The findings line up with what we know about foods being preferable when they’re eaten as close to their natural state as possible, and in moderate quantities. The Medeterrean diet is a fairly easy one to follow in the sense that it’s filling and satisfying with all that natural fat. Using spices instead of salt or sauces is another element that keeps it interesting and fun.