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The latest evidence in diet and mental health

Several recent studies showed that changing dietary behaviour and improving diet quality can improve mental health outcomes.
College student eating take-out food near laptop on floor
© Deakin University

Recent studies show that changing dietary behaviour and improving diet quality can also improve mental health outcomes.

A recent review examined the impact of dietary change on depression and anxiety symptoms.

The review demonstrated that dietary interventions significantly reduced symptoms of depression. Interestingly, interventions that were conducted in females were more successful than interventions conducted in males. Additionally, interventions designed and lead by a nutritional professional (for example, dietitian or nutritionist) had a greater impact on depressive symptoms.

The HELFIMED trial

Results from the HELFIMED trial supported the evidence from the SMILES trial for the treatment of depression with diet. This trial assessed a group-based dietary intervention supplemented with omega-3. It conducted cooking workshops and provided the supplements for 152 adults with self-reported depression. The recommended dietary changes were based on a Mediterranean-style diet.

Mental health outcomes of the dietary group were compared to the social support group. After three months of intervention, the dietary group showed significant reductions in depression and improved mental health compared to the social group. Notably, these improvements were sustained 6 months from the start of the intervention.

The study of young adults

A recent study conducted in 101 young adults with depressive symptoms demonstrated that even a brief dietary intervention of three weeks could be useful to:

  1. improve dietary intake and
  2. reduce depressive symptomology.

Similar to the SMILES and the HELFIMED, participants in this study were advised to increase consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean protein and dairy, nuts and seeds, olive oil and spices and to decrease consumption of highly processed foods and drinks.

Your task

What is your understanding of a Mediterranean-type diet?

Share what you know of a Mediterranean-type diet in the comments, including the types of food that it might feature.

© Deakin University
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Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition

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