A new large study of 15,093 people suggests that depression could be linked with nutrient deficits.
Eating a Mediterranean diet or other healthy dietary patterns, comprising of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts and low in processed meats, is associated with preventing the onset of depression, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
Only recently, however, have scientists begun to explore the relationship between nutrition and mental health. As so far, the study findings are consistent and compelling: what you eat – and don’t eat – can have a powerful impact on mental health.
This is the first time that several healthy dietary patterns and their association with the risk of depression have been analyzed together.
The researchers compared three diets: 1) the Mediterranean diet, 2) the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern and 3) Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010. Participants used a scoring system to measure their adherence to the selected diet (e.g. the higher the dietary score indicated that the participant was eating a healthier diet).
Foods such as meat and sweets (sources of saturated and trans fatty acids) were negatively scored, while nuts, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) were positively scored.
The 15,093 participants were free of depression at the beginning of the study.
Questionnaires to assess dietary intake were completed at the start of the study and again after 10 years. A total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of 8.5 years.
Mediterranean-style diet most beneficial
The Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 was associated with the greatest reduction of risk of depression but most of its effect could explained by its similarity with the Mediterranean Diet.
Nutrients and foods common to Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and the Mediterranean diet include omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils, nuts and moderate alcohol intake present in both patterns (Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and Mediterranean diet) The combination of such nutrients and foods is though to be protective from depression.
Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. The researchers saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.
Source: BMC Medicine, September 17, 2015.
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