In Brief

Mediterranean diet ‘may cut risk of depression by a third’

New research suggests link between eating habits and mental health

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, nuts and olive oil may have significant mood-related benefits, scientists have found.

 A review of 41 large-scale, multicountry studies suggests that people who consume such a diet were “33% less likely to develop depression over the following eight to 12 years than those whose meals looked little like a Mediterranean plate”, reports Metro.

Sky News says that the Mediterranean eating plan offers “hefty amounts of plant fibre, vitamins and minerals”, which can help reduce inflammation in the body - linked with emotional states such as stress. 

By contrast, a pro-inflammatory diet high in saturated fat, sugar and processed food was associated with an increased likelihood of depression, according to the review, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

 Lead author Dr Camille Lassale, from University College London, said: “There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health. This relationship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can in turn affect your mood.

“We aggregated results from a large number of studies and there is a clear pattern that following a healthier, plant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet can help in the prevention of depression.”

However, Prof Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, recommends approaching the latest findings with “a heavy dose of caution”, reports the BBC.

“Whilst eating healthier is good for many reasons, we need more evidence before we can say plant-rich diets can improve mental health,” he said.

“The only way to prove whether the links are genuine is to conduct large randomised trials in people at risk of depression.”

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