A large scale study consisting of 15,093 research particpants published in the BMC Medicine suggests that a Mediterranean diet or other healthy dietary pattern, comprising of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and low in processed meats, prevents the onset of depression; according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
This is the first study linking healthy dietary patterns with depression. The scientists compared three diets: the Mediterranean diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010. Sources of animal fats were negatively scored (meat and sweets), while nuts, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals respectively) were positively scored. Food questionnaires were used to investigate dietary intake at the start of the project and again after 10 years. One thousand five and fifty reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of 8.5 years.
A healthy nutritional profile was linked to greatest reduction in the risk of depression defines as a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet including items such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake present in the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 as well.
“We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds”, said Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. “These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.”
“The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”
Questionnaires to assess dietary intake were completed at the start of the project and again after 10 years. A total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of 8.5 years.
The researchers saw a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes, with a noticeable difference when participants followed a healthier diet.
Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, Patricia Henríquez-Sánchez, Miguel Ruiz-Canela, Francisca Lahortiga, Patricio Molero, Estefanía Toledo, Miguel A. Martínez-González. A longitudinal analysis of diet quality scores and the risk of incident depression in the SUN Project. BMC Medicine, 2015; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12916-015-0428-y