Your appetite and what you eat can be negatively be affected by depression, but can your mood be brought down by bad eating habits? A clear link has been found between the quality of a person’s diet and the risk of depression. A systematic review of the best available evidence was done recently and discovered a significant effect of diet on body size and aspects of mental health.
Extra care was given to studies that took these factors into account in their analysis: age, sex, income, body size, general health, smoking, and physical activity. This was to ensure that association between diet and risk of depression are independent of these factors.
The study results found a clear pattern between following a healthier, plant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet prevention of depression. Four studies out of 41, looked at the link between the traditional Mediterranean diet and depression on 36,556 adults over time. The results showed that there is a 33% lower risk of developing depression for people with more Mediterranean diet than those whose diet was not Mediterranean like.
Traditional Mediterranean diet favors foods rich in omega-3, fiber, vitamins, magnesium and polyphenols, which can reduce the risk of depression, and avoids processed foods with high concentration of fat and sugar (pro-inflammatory foods).
Mental health can be influenced by diet since some foods have been known to cause damage to the brain. This can be can be caused by oxidative stress (a harmful chemical process), insulin resistance, inflammation and a change in blood flow. Diet can also protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. For instance, fruits, nuts, vegetables and wine (drunk moderately is one) are rich in, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components. Neurotransmitters (the brain’s messenger molecules) responsible for regulating emotions can be affected by inflammation.
According to recent research in humans, brain cells (neurons), specifically in the hippocampus, which is associated with mood regulation may be affected by diet.
Latest evidence regarding microbes in your gut called gut microbiota suggest that microbes can break down nutrients we eat and create inflammatory molecules or molecules stimulating neural activity. They influence behavior by communicating with gut and brain neurons.
Diet is a key modulator of gut microbiota. Eating plant-based foods improves microbial gut composition while high-fat diets disturb the microbial balance. Imbalance in microbes in the gut causes intestines to be permeable and letting into the bloodstream big molecules, which can interfere with brain function.
Nutritional psychiatry is a rapid growing field that started a decade ago. random controlled trials have been set up to find evidence of a link existing between diet and mental health.
The first evidence that diet can affect depression has been recently provided by SMIES trial. Depression symptoms of the group allocated Mediterranean diet improved after 12 weeks, compared to the group that received social support.
GPs and mental health professional should now consider including dietary counseling for patients at risk of the depression, considering the growing evidence.