Researchers Say Healthy Diet Can Protect Mind, Prevent Depression Onset

Depressed ManDepression has become an increasing problem that affects more and more people today. This mental condition can have quite an effect to the sufferer as well as to those around him or her. But unfortunately, the treatments that are available do not provide an outright cure. The best weapon to use is to avoid its onset. While depression is still a very puzzling condition that even scientists today still do not fully understand, studies have given them a better insight into this debilitating disease. One of the recent discoveries is that a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables may help prevent the onset of depression.

Researchers from a large study that involved more than 15,000 participants have suggested that depression can arise from certain nutrient deficits. In addition, the researchers suggested that following a Mediterranean diet characterized by eating more fruits, legumes and vegetables and less processed meats may be associated with depression risk.

The researchers compared three types of diets, mainly the Mediterranean diet, the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern. The participants were instructed to use a scoring system to determine their level of adherence to any of the three diets included in the study. Participants with a higher dietary score indicated that they are eating a healthier diet. All the participants are known to be depression free from the onset of the said study.

According to Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, the lead researcher¬† from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, “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 researchers discovered that after a period of 10 years, a total of 1,550 participants reported having been diagnosed with depression or have taken anti-depressants during the covered period. Participants who stuck with the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 diet was seen to have the greatest reduction in depression risk among the participants. The researchers attributed the reduction to the diet’s similarity to the Mediterranean diet, both of which are rich on omega 3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and moderate alcohol intake.

According to Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, “A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.

So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily. This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

One possible limitation of the said study is that it depended on the reports regarding diet adherence given by the participants themselves as well as reporting the depression diagnoses. More research may be underway to further investigate how the nutrients on the mentioned diets are able to reduce the depression risk.

Source: Science Daily


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