Scientists from the University of Technology Sydney found that a Mediterranean diet may help reduce depression symptoms in younger adults.
The Mediterranean diet is a diet inspired by the eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea. When initially formulated in the 1960s, it drew on the cuisines of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain.
The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat products.
Olive oil has been found as a potential health factor for reducing all-cause death and the risk of chronic diseases.
There is some evidence that the Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of heart disease and early death.
The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association recommend the Mediterranean diet as a healthy dietary pattern that may reduce the risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes, respectively.
The Mediterranean diet may help with weight loss in obese people.
Depression is a common mental health condition that affects 1 in 8 males each year, especially young adults.
Young adulthood offers an opportunity for early dietary interventions, with research suggesting that a Mediterranean diet could be beneficial in treating depression.
In this study, researchers aimed to test if a Mediterranean diet can improve depressive symptoms in young men with depression.
Young men with moderate to severe depression ate a Mediterranean diet. Befriending therapy was chosen for the control group.
Depression and quality of life assessments were taken at baseline, week 6, and week 12.
The team also measured Mediterranean diet adherence with the Mediterranean Adherence Score.
Researchers found that after 12 weeks, the Mediterranean Adherence Scores were much higher in the diet group compared to the control group.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet group showed a much bigger decrease in the depression scores and a bigger increase in the quality of life scores than the control group at week 12.
These findings showed that compared to befriending, a Mediterranean diet intervention leads to big decreases in depression symptoms and increases in quality of life.
The researchers say that these results highlight the important role of nutrition in the treatment of depression.
One reason why a Mediterranean diet could improve depression symptoms is that a healthy diet could benefit gut microbes, which can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis.
The research is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and was conducted by Jessica Bayes et al.
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