New study links Mediterranean-type diet with protecting mind as well as body

MediterraneanDietA large study of 15,093 people suggests depression could be linked with nutrient deficits.

And in this particular study those nutrients come from fruits and vegetables.

According to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine, eating a Mediterranean diet—or other healthy dietary pattern, comprising fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and low in processed meats—is associated with preventing the onset of depression.

Following extensive research into diet and its effect on our physical health, numerous research projects are now exploring the link between nutrition and mental health. But researchers say this is the first time that several healthy dietary patterns and their association with the risk of depression have been analyzed together.

The researchers compared three diets: The Mediterranean diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern, and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010.

Participants used a scoring system to measure their adherence to the selected diet (i.e. the higher the dietary score indicated that the participant was eating a healthier diet).

Food items such as meat and sweets (sources of animal fats: saturated and trans fatty acids) were negatively scored, while nuts, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals respectively) were positively scored.

Lead researcher, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, says “We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds.

“These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.”

“The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties—where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”

The study included 15,093 participants who were free of depression at the beginning of the study. All participants were part of the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project, a cohort study started on 21st December 1999.

The cohort has been used to identify dietary and lifestyle determinants of various conditions, including diabetes, obesity and depression.

Questionnaires to assess dietary intake were completed at the start of the project and again after 10 years.

At the median follow-up of 8.5 years a total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs.

The Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 was associated with the greatest reduction of risk of depression; however, researchers said most of the effect could be explained by its similarity with the Mediterranean Diet.

This means common nutrients and food items such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake present in both patterns (Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and Mediterranean diet) could be responsible for the observed reduced risk in depression associated with a good adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010.