Does a healthy diet help treat depression?

Does a healthy diet help treat depression?

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Just to get straight to the point in an unsatisfactory way: It’s hard to verify exactly how much our diet affects our mood. Food is made up of a myriad of ingredients, and what we eat is different every day.

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It is impossible to measure the effect on the brain of each component separately. A combination of nutrients can also play a role (the effect of one can influence the effect of the other), while an infinite number of combinations are possible. However, scientific interest in the topic has increased in recent years. And not without results.

People who eat healthy food are less depressed

We now have more than a decade of evidence showing a link between diet and depression. And while this hasn’t been researched much, it’s also between nutrition and concerns, says Phyllis Jaca. She is Professor of Nutritional Psychiatry and Chair of the Center for Food and Mood at Deakin University in Australia.

These links are also spread all over the world, whether we are talking about Japan, Norway or the United States. For example, people who eat healthy food all over the world have a thirty percent lower chance of developing depression.

Decreased symptoms of depression

Jacka was one of the first to conduct a study in which people with depression were directed to follow a healthy Mediterranean diet. This was done under the supervision of a dietitian, in addition to their regular treatment.

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They were compared to a control group, also diagnosed with depression, who underwent a special program of social support rather than a diet. After 12 weeks, the diet group’s symptoms improved significantly more than those of the social support group.

Since then, according to JCA, three other similar studies have been published that showed the same thing.

Help with renewal

According to Jaca, these are important findings, because nutrition is something that everyone has to deal with and that we often control. This is not the case with other causes of mental complaints, such as heredity and trauma.

But she cautions against getting overzealous, because studies only show correlations. They say little about cause and effect. Is it really unhealthy food that contributes to psychological complaints? Or are we more likely to turn to unhealthy foods if we’re already feeling down? Do happy people eat more nutritious things? Or vice versa, and does their diet contribute to their happiness?

Read more about the link between what you eat and how you feel? You can read more about it in the question for Quest Psychology, 2022.

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