A study published last week in BMC Medicine indicates that improvement in diet can reduce symptoms of major depression. In a first ever randomized controlled world trial, researchers found a healthy Mediterranean-style diet can reduce depressive symptoms in patients to the point of remission.
The participants, all with major depressive disorder, were randomly assigned to receive either social support, which is known to be helpful for people with depression, or support from a clinical dietitian, over a three-month period. The dietary group increased their consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts – typical of a Mediterranean-style diet, while also reducing their consumption of unhealthy ‘extras’ such as sugary drinks, fast-food and cereals.
Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms. According to the Wall Street Journal, “It is part of the nascent field of nutritional psychiatry which uses changes in diet to help treat mood disorders. Researchers are always looking for new treatments for depression and other mental-health disorders because many people don’t respond to antidepressant medications and psychological therapies.”
Key components of the Mediterranean diet:
* Eating primarily plant-based foods, leafy greens and bi-valves, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
* Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
* Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
* Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil
* Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods