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Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts and fish can help prevent depression, a new study has claimed.
Scientists at University College London (UCL) found that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, plant-based foods and fish – typical of what people eat in Mediterranean regions – could actually lower the risk of depression.
Researchers, who worked with partners in Spain and Australia, published their report today in Molecular Psychiatry, giving a comprehensive overview of current evidence on the links between what people eat and their mood.
Lead author, Dr. Camille Lassale of UCL’s Epidemiology and Public Health department said: “There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health.”
But the researchers said it’s not as simple as explaining away how over-eating can present angst over body image. “This relationship goes
beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can in turn affect your mood,” said Dr Lassale.
“We aggregated results from a large number of studies and there is a clear pattern that following a healthier, plant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet can help in the prevention of depression.”
Foods recommended for a better mood
- Fruits and vegetables
- olive oil
Of the 41 studies included in their analysis, four specifically looked at the link between a traditional Mediterranean diet and depression over time in 36,556 adults.
Participants from these longitudinal studies with greater adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet had a 33 per cent lower risk of developing depression than people whose diet at least resembled a Mediterranean diet.
A “pro-inflammatory” diet, with high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and processed food, was associated with a higher risk of depression in five studies of more than 32,000 adults from France, Australia, Spain, the US and the UK.
“There is also emerging evidence that shows that the relationship between the gut and brain plays a key role in mental health and that this axis is modulated by gastrointestinal bacteria, which can be modified by our diet,” said Dr. Lassale.
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“There are now strong arguments in favour of regarding diet as mainstream in psychiatric medicine,” she said.
“This is of importance at a patient’s level, but also at public health level, especially in a context where poor diet is now recognised to be the leading cause of early death across middle and high-income countries and at the same time mental disorders as the leading cause of disability.”
The next step is to examine how dietary intervention actually affects mental health, the authors said.
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