Earlier this month, an Australian study provided the first solid evidence that diet can have a role in treating major depression. It is somewhat surprising that this research hasn’t been done before. We have long suspected that the nature and quality of our food can influence people’s risk of depression. It has always been a fairly confident best guess that ‘we are what we eat’ and that some foods change our moods for the worse whilst others offer more protection.
So, it was welcome to see some hard clinical evidence emerging that depressed people may benefit from changing their diet. Sixty seven clients, with moderate to severe depression were studied over a twelve week period. All of them had unhealthy diets before the study. Half of them were put on a version of a Mediterranean diet whilst the other half continued with their diet as usual but had extra social support. After 12 weeks the group eating the diet had, on average, made bigger improvements. Thirty percent of them were no longer depressed, (compared to eight per cent of the other group).
Interestingly, the dieting group didn’t lose more weight. Nor did they do more exercise. The changes appeared to be brought about solely by the different food they ate. We still don’t know whether this food provided some vital ‘antidepressant’ ingredients, or whether it was the reduction of sugar and saturated fats that brought about the changes.
This wasn’t a ‘cure’ for everyone. But there was a definite reduction in depression for most of the participants. Even if they were still depressed their symptoms were milder. It is exciting research because it suggests that diet could become a first option for treatment before reaching for the antidepressants.
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