A healthy Mediterranean-like diet may dramatically cut the risk of getting depressed. This was concluded by a recent Spanish study, where eating the healthy Mediterranean diet was associated with a 40 to 50% less chance of developing clinical depression. Eating plenty of fruits and nuts was linked to a 30 to almost 40% lower risk of getting depressed.
In the study important separate characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, like a high consumption of nuts, fruit, fish and vegetables were determined and compared to the regular eating habits of over 10,000 Spanish study participants. The researchers recorded the persons who were diagnosed with depression over 4.5 years.
The study data showed that people with a diet more similar to the Mediterranean diet were 40 to 50% less likely to develop a severe depression. When just looking at the fruit and nuts consumption a 30 to almost 40% decreased risk of developing depression was seen in higher intake categories.
Although the mechanisms behind possible protective effect are not clear the researchers suggest that the effect of combination of Mediterranean diet components may be more important than one component in particular. The Mediterranean diet provides multiple beneficial nutrients, like omega-3 fatty-acids from fish, a relative high amount of (good) unsaturated fats, antioxidants from nuts and olive oils and vitamins and minerals from for example fruits and other plant foods. This mix may work together in preventing mental health problems.
Third cause premature death and disability
Preventing depression is of key importance as the prevalence is high. Depression is the third cause of premature death and disability in the developed world. Incorporating dietary strategies would be a relative new way to tackle mental problems.
A Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet that anyone can follow. It is rich in nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, cereal products (like bread) and fish. Additionally it is characterized by a moderate dairy and alcohol intake and a overall low intake of meat or meat products.
Sánchez-Villegas A., Delgado-Rodríguez M., Alonso A., Schlatter J., Lahortiga F., Majem L., Martínez-González MA. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up () cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009; 66(10):1090-8.