Eating a healthier diet like the Mediterranean diet may help prevent depression, according to a new study of 15,093 people.
Several studies have linked diets heavy in fruits, vegetables and legumes and light on processed meats with improved physical health. A study presented earlier this year at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology found that following a Mediterranean diet may half the risk of heart disease. But this is the first time that several healthy diets, including the Med, have been analyzed for links to depression, according to a release about the study, which was published in BMC Medicine and noted on sciencedaily.com.
"We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds,” the study’s lead researcher, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria said in the release. "These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health."
Researchers studied dietary intake questionnaires provided by 15,093 subjects who were free of depression at the beginning of the 10-year study. 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. Researchers compared results among people who followed three diets: the Med diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern and Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (similar to the Med diet).
All three diets were linked to a lower risk of depression. "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," said Sanchez-Villegas.
Interestingly, the risk was reduced for people who had a low to moderate level of adherence to the diet, but there was not much extra benefit for those who had a high or very high level of adherence.