Another dietary plan with antidepressant implications?
The connections between diet and physical health have long been assumed. While the science exploring this is still in relative infancy, most of us understand the concept of “you are what you eat.”
But is it possible that how we think is also affected by what we eat? Could simple dietary changes give us a boost into more vibrant mental health? Or prevent us from sliding into poor mental health in the first place?
To answer those questions, let’s not make assumptions. Let’s see what the science says.
Published in the October 2009 edition of JAMA Psychiatry (formerly Archives of General Psychiatry), researchers from the University of Navarra set out to determine what impact eating the Mediterranean diet might have on the incidence of depression.
Using a massive sample size of 10,094 participants, researchers measured incidents of depression after a median of 4.4 years, then compared those outcomes with the results of a 136-item food frequency questionnaire to determine any potential correlation between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and clinical depression.
Their results were not insignificant.
They found the Hazard Ratios (probability of depression incidents) to be considerably lower among those who adhered more closely to the Mediterranean diet than those who did not.
The researchers grouped participants into five groups based on their adherence to the diet and compared the risk of depression relative to the group who least closely adhered to the diet. Here is how they performed (from least close to closest adherence).
Group 1: Least adherence to Mediterranean diet
Group 2: 26% reduction in risk
Group 3: 34% reduction in risk
Group 4: 51% reduction in risk
Group 5: 42% reduction in risk
The closer participants adhered to the diet, the greater the reduction in risk. Curiously, the group with the closest adherence bucked the trend and experienced a slight uptick compared to the group just behind them, but the reduction in risk of 42 percent is still quite significant.
So we should all just adopt the Mediterranean diet then, right?
Not so fast!
While these results are extremely encouraging, we need to take a closer look at them, as well as other studies to see what they mean to us.
First of all, the results of this study need to be replicated to find out if there is consistency. And while adherence to the diet as a whole may have shown lowered risk, risk was not eliminated entirely. Also, some foods showed increased risk when evaluated independently.
For example, while fruits and nuts showed decreased risk of between 31 percent toward the lower end of consumption and 39 percent on the upper end, meat products showed a decreased risk of 8 percent on the lower end and an increased risk of 35 percent on the upper end.
So, does that mean that some meat is beneficial while a lot of meat is detrimental? And some fruits and nuts are beneficial while a lot of fruits and nuts are very beneficial?
Perhaps. But this is why further studies are needed. Can these foods be studied in a vacuum, or do they work synergistically with one another when in proper balance?
This is precisely the reason to take these results with a nice grain of Mediterranean Sea salt.
What is our takeaway then?
When you look at the results of this study and add them to the results of others that have shown similar findings, such as this one about the DASH diet, this one about turmeric, and even this one about saffron, you can start to see a common thread begin to emerge.
We are seeing more and more evidence that some of these whole foods-based, nutrient-rich diets may offer more than just benefits to our physical health. They may offer a profound impact on our mental health as well.
Much more research is needed to confirm these findings and to discover what mechanisms within these diets may be responsible for their potential benefits. But in the meantime, they give us a great head start in chasing down some answers.
(And when you chase them down, always chase them down in consultation with your physician!)
The statements contained in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Unless otherwise specified, no writer for PursuitOfGreat.com is a licensed physician, medical doctor, trainer, nutritionist or health professional of any kind. Do not consume anything written about on this website if you are allergic to it.
The opinions expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Please consult a physician or health care professional for your specific health care or medical needs.
Please talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet program, including those found in this article. The information provided in this article is not intended as a substitute for consultations with your doctor nor is it intended to provide medical advice specific to your condition.
Author Bio John Caruso is the owner and writer of www.PursuitOfGreat.com, a site specializing in health and wellness reviews, positive mindset, belief, finances, and solutions that provide an equal playing field in life for all. The goal of PursuitOfGreat.com is to find and share tools that anyone can use to achieve greatness in life, regardless of who they are or where they come from. Stop by and, if you find something that helps you, spread the word! Twitter Pinterest