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You are what you eat: Can food reduce symptoms of depression?

You are what you eat: Can food reduce symptoms of depression? Can the food that you consume help to fight major depressive episodes?

There are a number of different medications and counseling techniques used to treat depression. And now, researchers have found that a Mediterranean diet may also help to fight the disease.

As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, depression is not just a normal part of growing older: It is a real medical condition that can be treated. Though the risk for developing depression does increase with age, it is sometimes mistaken by doctors as a natural happenstance and as such, often goes untreated. It is also common for depression to be misdiagnosed among adults, noted the source.

Diet and depression
A small study published in the BMC Medicine journal revealed that a group of scientists in Australia have found a link between using the Mediterranean diet as a treatment and a decrease in symptoms of depression. The participants in the study were experiencing moderate to severe depression and of these people, the majority were taking prescription medications or undergoing another form of treatment. The individuals were broken into two different groups - one group was prescribed dietary intervention through counseling while the others attended a social support group of topics unrelated to diet.

A Mediterranean diet has been found to reduce symptoms of depression, according to study findings.A Mediterranean diet has been found to reduce symptoms of depression, according to study findings.

For those in the dietary treatment group, recommendations included a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean red meats, eggs, chicken, low-fat and unsweetened dairy products, whole grains, raw and unsalted nuts, olive oil and fish, according to the study. These guidelines were considered a modified version of the Mediterranean diet. 

The sessions also included nutrition counseling. The treatment group was advised to limit the consumption of processed and sweetened foods, refined starches and empty carbohydrates. These food groups are commonly linked to an increased risk of depression, reported Medscape. The researchers found that those in the treatment group with the Mediterranean diet had a statistically notable difference in their score on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale.

The results
The researchers reported that their results have served promising in paving the way toward using dietary means to treat depression, as the dietary intervention successfully decreased the symptoms among participants, according to BMC Medicine. Additionally, the scientists found that self-reported feelings of anxiety and depression also improved with the intervention of the diet. It was noted that the outcomes were the same regardless of weight or BMI. Physical activity, smoking or self-efficacy also failed to have an impact on the results during this controlled study, the first of its kind.

"The results of this trial suggest that improving one's diet according to current recommendations targeting depression may be a useful and accessible strategy for addressing depression in both the general population and in clinical settings," stated the researchers.

Further research with larger study sizes can help to supplement and advance these findings.