Can Diet Reduce Your Depression Risk?
For years, scientists have investigated how what we eat affects our physical bodies. Clearly, the science of eating for athletic performance and physical health has come a long way. But now, researchers are finally starting to do more studies on how nutrition affects our minds. A large study that included 15,093 participants reported that depression could be linked with nutrient deficits. In other words, what we eat impacts on our mental health too.
In this study, researchers compared several eating patterns to see if they were correlated with either an increased or reduced risk of depression. Lead researcher Dr. Almudena Sanchez-Villegas of the 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.”
They found the eating patterns linked with the lowest risk of depression were those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts (like the Mediterranean Diet, for example). Interestingly, Dr. Sanchez-Villegas adds that a “threshold effect may exist,” meaning even moderate adherence to the eating pattern mentioned above achieved an important reduction in depression risk and strict adherence didn’t show any extra benefit. In other words, if the results of this study hold true, you do not have to be super-strict with your diet and have a little “wiggle room” to still achieve the same benefits.