Tweaks to a diet’s nutritional make-up may provide an effective strategy for depression, says a study detailing extended benefits towards the management of associated disorders.
Eating more vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts, led to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms over a three-month period, said investigators.
At the end of the investigation, a third of subjects in the dietary support group met the definitions of depression remission, compared to 8% of subjects in the social support cohort.
"These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change," said Professor Felice Jacka, director of Deakin's Food and Mood Centre at Deakins University in Australia.
"Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms."
The study’s positive implications also included the physical illnesses that were associated with depression, which are both a cause and consequence of the mental disorder.
"Importantly, depression also increases the risk of and, in turn, is also increased by common physical illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Professor Jacka.
“Moreover, behavioural changes associated with food (cooking/shopping/meal patterns) are an expected outcome of a nutrition intervention, and these changes in activity may also have had a therapeutic benefit,” the study added.
Although a ‘healthy diet’ is open to interpretation according to the country and culture, general consensus suggests diets rich in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, coupled with lean proteins like fish, are linked to a lower risk for depression.
A Mediterranean diet— strongly associated with these food components—has been linked with a 30% reduced risk for depression as well as chronic disease .
Nutritional supplements have also shown usefulness in psychiatric disorders although the bulk of research has been limited to animal studies and observational studies in humans.