- Mediterranean-style diet rich in wholegrains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and nuts improved the mood of patients with depression.
- The study findings highlight the need for better diet management as it has an influence on depressive symptoms.
- The diet is not a replacement for therapy and drug treatment but is an add-on.
Mental-health disorders have various treatments and now diet also has an influence in treating or reducing the symptoms of depression.
Researchers at Deakin University have found the diet can help those suffering from severe depression.
Mediterranean diet was based on the eating habits of people living in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. It includes a diet rich in vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrains, nuts and legumes and a moderate level of fish, poultry, dairy products and red wine. Olive oil is used as the cooking medium.
‘One third participants with depression who were on a Mediterranean diet for three months met criteria for remission of major depression.’
Prof Jacka and her team, recruited 67 adults to test whether improving diet quality can effectively treat clinical depression.
The participants, all with major depressive disorder, were randomly assigned to receive either social support, which is known to be helpful for people with depression, or support from a clinical dietitian, over a three-month period.
The dietary group increased their consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts - typical of a Mediterranean-style diet, while also reducing their consumption of unhealthy 'extras' such as sugary drinks, fast-food and cereals.
Everyday, the participants had six servings of vegetables, five servings of wholegrains, three servings of fruit, two servings of unsweetened dairy, one serving of raw, unsalted nuts, and three tablespoons of olive oil.
Sweets, refined cereal, fried food, fast food and soft drink were restricted to three servings per week and two glasses of red wine was allowed during dinner.
Mediterranean diet affects the gut microbiota which has an impact on the mental health.
The study findings point out that a third of the participants in the dietary support group met criteria for remission of major depression, compared to eight percent of those in the social support group.
Director of Deakin's Food and Mood Centre Professor Felice Jacka said, "While approximately half of sufferers are helped by currently available medical and psychological therapies, new treatment options for depression are urgently needed."
"These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change," Professor Jacka said.
"Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms," she said.
Professor Jacka said people suffering from depression should not replace therapy and drug treatments with the Mediterranean diet. "It's not a stretch to consider that people coming to a doctor with depression might have a referral to a clinical dietitian," she said. Rather, those with depression can also be referred to a clinical dietitian.