Nutrition that promotes health helps combat depression

Unhealthy eating habits can increase the risk of disease.


Unhealthy eating is often accompanied by an increased risk of disease. This is not something new. We also know that an unhealthy diet can be the result of a psychological impairment. For example, depressive moods often mean that those affected no longer pay the necessary attention to what they eat. After all, if you are not in a good mood at all, you are usually not very concerned about having a healthy, balanced diet. The same applies with depressed people when it comes to their desire to exercise: most of those affected have little appetite for it. However, scientific studies have now shown that physical activity can be a good ‘medicine’ to combat depression. Recently, Australian researchers also found that a healthy diet can have a beneficial effect on depression.

In their study entitled ‘A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial’, researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney investigated the effect of dietary intervention on students with elevated levels of depression symptoms. After an initial examination they selected 76 students between 17 and 35 years of age who were diagnosed as having an enhanced depressive disorder.

The scientists chose this age group because experience has shown that people in this age group are particularly prone to depression. In addition, this phase of life is often the time when a person’s later lifestyle is formed – and this sets the course for how they will eat later in life, or basically what kind of lifestyle they will lead. The study participants who were recruited suffered from moderate depression symptoms and showed unhealthy eating habits across the board: specifically, they consumed a lot of highly processed foods and too much fat and sugar.

The students were randomly assigned to an intervention group and a control group. The participants in the intervention group were shown a video in which a dietician gave advice on how to change eating habits to promote health. Afterwards, these subjects were able to watch the film in question time and time again online on a website. In addition, the study participants from this group were prescribed a diet that was in accordance with a so-called Mediterranean-style diet, in other words with lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grain and dairy products as well as olive oil and nuts.

Adjusting to the Mediterranean-style diet

To boost their motivation, every participant in the diet group also received a basket of healthy food and a shopping voucher for the equivalent of 60 US dollars as well. In the course of the three-week study, these test persons had to go to the nutritionist twice more for a motivation interview. The control group was not given any nutritional recommendations or dietary guidelines. Every participant had to undergo a follow-up examination after three weeks.

Summing up their study, the Macquarie University researchers concluded that the majority of the students in the diet group had adhered to the dietary recommendations they were given. In addition, the study leaders found that the change in diet had had a positive effect on the participants’ depression symptoms. The researchers reported that this was clearly shown by tests. At the same time, the control group showed a slight increase in their levels of depression. According to the researchers, however, the participants’ stress values also improved in the diet group.

Three months after the end of the observation period, the scientists questioned the subjects from the diet group again about their state of health. The results showed that those who had continued to follow the recommendations for a healthy diet were also still feeling better.

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