Depression: the Mediterranean diet protects against depression, junk food promotes it

A major study shows a beneficial relationship between plant-rich diets, particularly the Mediterranean diet, and a lower risk of depression. Excess sugars, processed foods or saturated fats would have the opposite effect.

This study, conducted by the University College of London, scanned the scientific literature to assess the impact of diet on the risk of depression. 41 studies were considered eligible for analysis. 21 longitudinal studies (which follow individuals over time) and 20 cross-sectional studies (which take a snapshot and assess potential associations). Four of the longitudinal studies focused on depression, in a population of 36,556 adults following a traditional Mediterranean diet.

A plant-rich diet protects against depression

Analysis of the data revealed that following a plant-rich diet was globally associated with a 35% lower risk of depression, compared to following a low-vegetable diet. The most compelling evidence has been observed for the traditional Mediterranean diet. As a reminder, this is characterized by the abundant consumption of plants such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, aromatic herbs and olive oil. A moderate consumption of dairy products, eggs and wine, a limited consumption of fish and a low consumption of meat. The study finds a 33% reduction in the risk of depression in the highest category of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, compared to the lowest adherence to the diet.

Junk food linked to increased risk of depression

Researchers also found that following a “pro-inflammatory diet,” a diet that contains high amounts of sugars, processed foods, and saturated fats, is linked to a higher risk of depression. The data came from a total of 32,908 adults living in Australia, France, Spain, the UK and the US. Avoiding such a diet lowered the risk by 24%. Eating a healthy plant-rich diet, especially a Mediterranean diet, provides some protection against depression.

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Lassale C. et al., Mol Psychiatry., 2018 Sep 26. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8.


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