Posted on Mon, 11 Jan 16
The link between nutrition and depression prevention and treatment is often neglected, and in fact there have been no published dietary guidelines for depression, until now that is.
Accumulating experimental, epidemiological and clinical studies are highlighting an important role for nutritional therapy in the prevention and treatment of depression but the diet-mood connection is neglected in mainstream medicine and psychiatry.
As much of the research demonstrating the vital role of dietary change is relatively recent, there has until now been no clear dietary guidelines for the prevention of depression. Perhaps the first such practical guidelines were recently published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience to help inform health professionals and the public.
Through their review of the published scientific evidence and subsequent discussions, the authors, all of whom have substantial expertise in the field of nutritional psychiatry, arrived at 5 key recommendations:
1. Follow ‘traditional’ dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean, Norwegian, or Japanese diet. The available evidence suggests that traditional dietary habits may be beneficial for positive mental health.
2. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, and seeds. These foods should form the bulk of the diet as they are nutrient dense, high in fibre, and low in saturated and trans-fatty acids.
3. Include a high consumption of foods rich in omega-3 PUFAs. Fish is one of the main sources of omega-3 PUFAs, and higher fish consumption is associated with reduced depression risk.
4. Limit your intake of processed-foods, ‘fast’ foods, commercial bakery goods, and sweets. These foods are high in trans-fatty acids, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars, and are low in nutrients and fibre. Consumption of these foods has been associated with an increased risk or probability of depression in observational studies.
5. Replace unhealthy foods with wholesome nutritious foods. Healthy dietary patterns (e.g. fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, and fish) and unhealthy dietary patterns e.g. sweets, soft-drinks, fried food, refined cereals, and processed meats) are independent predictors of lower and higher depressive symptoms, respectively.
They also discussed evidence for consuming lean red meat in moderation, achieving an optimal vitamin D status, including olive oil as the main source of added fat, and avoiding alcohol abuse, although these were not primary recommendations.
“Although there are a number of important gaps in the scientific literature to date, existing evidence suggests that a combination of healthful dietary practices may reduce the risk of developing depression,” they concluded. “These dietary recommendations may also provide additional and/ or concurrent benefits for obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and essentially pose no risk of harm.”
Opie RS, Itsiopoulos C, Parletta N, Sanchez-Villegas A, Akbaraly TN, Ruusunen A, Jacka FN. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2015 Aug 28. [Epub ahead of print]