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Effects of the Mediterranean-style diet on depression, mental health


Traditional Mediterranean diets (MedDiet) are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a condition that overlaps with depression. The following study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, aimed to investigate the effects of MedDiet on mental health and quality of life in people with depression.

  • A total of 163 adults aged 18-65 with self-reported depression participated in a randomized controlled trial providing nutrition education and food hampers and cooking workshops every two weeks for three months, with six months follow-up.
  • The control group attended social groups every two weeks. During this period, the participants completed mental health, quality of life and dietary questionnaires. Data were analyzed using linear mixed modeling and Pearson correlations.
  • The treatment group were found to have a higher MedDiet score, consumed more vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains and legumes; greater diversity of vegetables and fruit; and less unhealthy snacks and red meat/chicken, in comparison to the control group at three months.
  • Moreover, the treatment group had reduced depression scores and higher mental health and quality of life scores.
  • Reduced depression scores were correlated with increased MedDiet, consumption of nuts, legumes, and a greater diversity of vegetables.
  • Similar correlations were seen with other mental health and quality of life improvements, particularly for legumes and diversity of vegetables and fruit. All changes were sustained at six months.

This is one of the first randomized controlled trials to show a benefit of diet for mental health.

Journal Reference:

Parletta N, Zarnowiecki D, Cho J, Wilson A, Bogomolova S, Villani A, Itsiopoulos C, Meyer B, Segal L, Odea K. EFFECTS OF A MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE DIET ON MENTAL HEALTH AND QUALITY OF LIFE IN PEOPLE WITH DEPRESSION. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism. 2017;8:92. DOI: 10.1016/j.jnim.2017.04.119

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