Can diet treat severe depression?


Researchers at Deakin University in Australia have recently published a study known as a “randomised controlled trial” that tested whether a diet can help treat depression. They separated a group of participants into two groups, one that received social support or one that received support from a dietitian. Each group was followed up for a period of three months.

The group that was supported by the dietitian were given information and help to improve their diet, focussing on the basics of the Mediterranean diet such as increasing fruit, vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates, fish, nuts, olive oil and reducing refined carbohydrates found in processed foods like breakfast cereals, ready meals, sugary drinks etc.

What they found is that those who followed the improved diet experienced a greater degree of mood improvement compared to those who had social support. One third of the diet group were reported as having a clinical remission compared to only 8% in the social support group. The best results were found in those participants who followed the diet closely and weren’t tempted to stray.

The Mediterranean diet relies on simple dishes cooked with fresh, in season ingredients. The focus of this diet is on plant proteins and smaller amounts of lean meat (that is, they eat lower amounts of saturated fats and higher amounts of unsaturated fat). There are mounting studies on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including anti-aging, benefits for heart health, protection against certain types of cancer and reduction of symptoms in joint and skin diseases.

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Photo by Lloyd Morgan