Large-scale study finds that the Mediterranean diet is best for your mental health

October 9, 2018, CORDIS
Large-scale study finds that the Mediterranean diet is best for your mental health
Credit: Marian Weyo, Shutterstock

Admittedly, eating chocolate or ice cream to chase the blues away is so much more enjoyable than healthy alternatives. But a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry says that a diet rich in fish, nuts and vegetables could help lower a person's risk of depression. Specifically, a plant-based diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, nuts and olive oil – but little meat or dairy – appears to have benefits in terms of mood.

The paper uses some sobering statistics to stress the 's prevalence and socioeconomic impact. Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, equivalent to 7 percent of all women and 4 percent of men. The World Health Organization estimates that about USD 1 trillion is lost each year because of low productivity caused by and anxiety disorders.

Researchers from Spain, Britain and Australia analysed 41 studies published within the last 8 years on the links between and depression. They found a connection between people's diet and their chances of developing depression. People who followed a strict Mediterranean diet had a 33 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to people who were least likely to follow these eating habits.

Can bad eating habits bring your mood down?

"There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health," study lead author and research associate at University College London's Research Department of Epidemiology & Public Health Dr. Camille Lassale told 'CNN'. "This relationship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can in turn affect your mood."

The research team found that people who ate foods containing a lot of fat, sugar and processed meats were more likely to suffer from depression. "A pro-inflammatory diet can induce systemic inflammation, and this can directly increase the risk for depression," she added.

Findings were based on 5 of 32 908 adults from Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Quoted in the British newspaper 'The Guardian', Lassale said: "Poor diet may increase the risk of depression as these are results from longitudinal studies which excluded people with depression at the beginning of the study. Therefore the studies looked at how diet at baseline is related to new cases of depression."

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, wants to see more data before claiming outright that such diets improve mental health. "The current evidence is not sufficient to prove plant-rich diets can prevent depression as most of the evidence so far simply shows that those with poorer eat worse. Also the link to inflammation as a plausible mechanism to explain a link between diet and mind health is highly tenuous."

The day may not be that far off when medical health professionals find room for dietary counselling alongside established forms of treatment for patients who are at risk of depression.

Explore further: Plant-rich diets may prevent depression – new evidence

More information: Camille Lassale et al. Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, Molecular Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8

Related Stories

Plant-rich diets may prevent depression – new evidence

September 26, 2018
Being depressed can negatively affect your appetite and what you eat, but can bad eating habits bring your mood down? Our latest study, a systematic review of the best available evidence, found a clear link between the quality ...

Diet shown to reduce stroke risk may also reduce risk of depression

February 26, 2018
People who eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th Annual Meeting ...

Healthy food is key to a healthy mind

October 9, 2017
The risk of developing depression is directly linked to diet, lifestyle and exercise, a ground-breaking index developed by Swinburne researchers has found.

Vegetarians more susceptible to depression than meat eaters, study shows. Here's why.

September 11, 2017
Vegetarians are at higher risk of suffering depression compared to those who eat meat and consume a conventional balanced diet, according to a new study.

Five types of food to increase your psychological well-being

September 10, 2018
We all know eating "healthy" food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for ...

Healthy diet may lower risk of hearing loss in women

May 11, 2018
Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million Americans. Some evidence suggests that diet may influence risk of hearing loss. Previous studies have looked at how specific nutrients affect risk, but the relation of overall ...

Recommended for you

Studies reveal role of red meat in gut bacteria, heart disease development

December 10, 2018
In concurrent studies, Cleveland Clinic researchers have uncovered new mechanisms that demonstrate why and how regularly eating red meat can increase the risk of heart disease, and the role gut bacteria play in that process.

Regular problem solving does not protect against mental decline

December 10, 2018
The well known 'use it or lose it' claim has been widely accepted by healthcare professionals, but researchers in the Christmas issue of The BMJ find that regularly doing problem solving activities throughout your lifetime ...

Early career choices appear to influence personality, study finds

December 10, 2018
In the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, 16-year-old students in middle-track schools decide whether to stay in school to pursue an academic career or enroll in a vocational training program. A new study offers evidence ...

Genetic changes associated with physical activity reported

December 10, 2018
Time spent sitting, sleeping and moving is determined in part by our genes, University of Oxford researchers have shown. In one of the most detailed projects of its kind, the scientists studied the activity of 91,105 UK Biobank ...

When scientists push people to their tipping point

December 10, 2018
You probably overestimate just how far someone can push you before you reach your tipping point, new research suggests.

Licence to Swill: James Bond's drinking over six decades

December 10, 2018
He may be licensed to kill but fictional British secret service agent James Bond has a severe alcohol use disorder, according to an analysis of his drinking behaviour published in the Medical Journal of Australia's Christmas ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.