Mediterranean diet really does fight depression

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

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For a long time, the Mediterranean diet has been praised for its physical and mental health benefits, including protecting against cognitive decline and depression. However, many people continue to be sceptical about the relationship between diet and mental health.

A study conducted by University of South Australia researchers, led by Senior Research Fellow Dr Natalie Parletta, confirmed that diet does, in fact, impact mental health. Researchers found that consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, fish oil and extra virgin olive oil reduced depression and improved quality of life.

“This is one of the first randomised controlled trials worldwide to show a causal effect.

“It makes sense that diet can impact mental health, because our brain needs nutrients and other dietary factors to work well — perhaps more than any other body organ,” she said.

During the study, volunteers aged 18–65 who suffered from depression were randomly allocated to one of two groups for a period of three months. The first group consumed a Mediterranean diet and received nutritional education and fortnightly cooking workshops, while the others joined a social group that met for fortnightly gatherings and used peer support to help with depression.

Both groups showed improved mental health at the end of the study, but the Mediterranean diet group showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms. This shows that there is a strong link between physical and mental health, and improving your diet can lead to better mental health. Parletta stated this was a great step towards developing easy treatment options.

“We have shown that with expert advice on nutrition and group cooking workshops teaching how to prepare simple, yummy, cost-effective meals, healthy diets are achievable.”

A follow-up three months after the study revealed that there continued to be long-term improvements in both diet and depression.

Parletta said that since depression affects around one million Australians in a year and carries the largest burden of disease worldwide, the results are a promising step towards helping these people.

“It is fantastic to be able to offer people significant help through simple dietary changes.”

Image credit: ©

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