An analysis of data from almost 46,000 people has found that losing excess weight, eating a nutrient-dense diet and eating less fat all reduced the symptoms of depression.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester, looked at all existing data from clinical trials of diets for mental health conditions. It combined data from 16 randomized controlled trials with 45,826 participants that examined the effects of dietary interventions on symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The results provide convincing evidence that eating a healthier diet significantly reduces symptoms of depression, even in people without diagnosed depressive disorders. However, doing so had no clear effects on anxiety.
All types of dietary improvement appeared to have equal effects on mental health, with weight-loss, fat reduction or increased nutrient intakes all having similar benefits for depressive symptoms.
Healthy diet + exercise showed greatest benefit
In particular, eating more nutrient-dense meals which are high in fibre and vegetables, while cutting back on fast foods and refined sugars appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a 'junk food' diet.
The findings add to the growing evidence to support lifestyle interventions as an important approach to tackle low mood and depression.
The researchers found that when dietary interventions were combined with exercise, a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced by people.
The findings also showed significantly greater benefits from healthier diets for women.
It’s not known if the benefits of a healthy diet on mood are related to improvements in physical health. It could be through reducing obesity, inflammation, or fatigue -- all of which are linked to diet and impact upon mental health.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.