How Your Diet Can Impact Your Depression

A recent Deakin University study finds that a Mediterranean diet can help improve symptoms of depression.

Written by Courtney Gillen

How Your Diet Can Impact Your Depression

01 The article “Mediterranean diet can help in fight against depression, Australian study finds” was published in ABC by medical reporter Sophie Scott and the National Reporting Team's Rebecca Armitage on January 30, 2017

02 Researchers at Deakin University conducted a 12-week study that consisted of putting participants on a Mediterranean-style diet, while others participated in a social support group

03 The diet improved the mood and symptoms of about a third of the participants, whereas only 8 percent in the social group showed improvement in depression symptoms

04 The Mediterranean-style diet consisted of eating wholegrains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and nuts while decreasing the intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried foods and sugary drinks

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its physical health benefits and may be the next breakthrough in treating mental health problems.

Dozens of randomly selected participants with major depressive orders participated in a study conducted by researchers at Deakin University. The study consisted of putting 31 participants on a Mediterranean-style diet for 12 weeks, while 25 participants were given social support. Only 8 percent of those involved in the social support group showed improvement in their symptoms versus a third who were on the diet.

A professor and director of Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre, Felice Jacka, talked to ABC about the Mediterranean diet and how it improves cardiovascular health, saying “… diet has a very potent impact on biological aspects of our body that affect depressions risks.” Jacka goes on to discuss how our immune system, brain plasticity, and gut microbiota seem to be central not only to our physical health, but to our mental health as well.

Sarah Keeble, a participant who partook in the Mediterranean-style diet, said the program was life changing. “I felt clearer in my mind. I felt balanced. I felt happier. I actually had a lot more energy,” said Keeble. “It's not going to cure depression, but you can certainly handle it very well.” Keeble, who is now pursuing a diploma in health science, has decided to continue the Mediterranean diet and hopes to help people where they think there is no hope.

Though dieting is an important aspect of improving physical and mental health, you should not replace therapy and drug treatments with the Mediterranean diet. Professor Jacka pointed out that most of the participants in the study were receiving some type of psychotherapy or pharmacology treatment to which the diet was a supplement. In addition, Jacka hopes to see more dietitian support for those who are experiencing depression as a result of the study.

Original Series

Support our work

We’re on a mission to change how the world perceives mental health.