Mediterranean diet reduces depression in young men

May 19, 2022
Mediterranean diet reduces depression in young men

A study in Australia shows how the Mediterranean diet, rich in in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and low in processed foods, can reduce symptoms of depression in young men as well as improve their quality of life. Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) report a significant reduction in points on the standard depression scale in participants of the study, thanks to the dietary change – increased consumption of fresh whole foods and reduced consumption of “fast” food, red meat, and sugar.

Depression affects about one million Australian adults in any given year. The mental disorder can present differently from person to person through several different symptoms. In general, depression is characterised by feelings of unhappiness and loneliness, hopelessness, and/or low self-esteem; it can also alter cognitive function and manifest physical symptoms.

According to data, roughly 30% of patients fail to respond to treatments for major depressive disorder which includes psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy and antidepressant medications. Researchers have since started looking into diet and lifestyle changes to bring about a lasting reduction in depressive symptoms.

Building on observational evidence where the Mediterranean diet was seen to reduce the risk of developing depression in older men, UTS researchers studied the effects of dietary manipulation on young adult male participants over 18 months.

This time, it was observed that participants shifting to the Mediterranean diet experienced a mean reduction of 20.6 points on the depression scale at the end of the study; around 36% of the participants also reported low to minimal depressive symptoms and improvements to the physical quality of life.

“There are lots of reasons why scientifically we think food affects mood. For example, around 90% of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes. There is emerging evidence that these microbes can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis,” said Dr. Jessica Bayes from the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, UTS.

While the researchers are aware that adhering to a specific diet can be daunting and very difficult for people experiencing severe depression symptoms, such that any interventions will require careful planning, Dr. Bayes has advised medical doctors and psychologists to refer “depressed young men to a nutritionist or dietitian as an important component of treating clinical depression.”

Read: Switching to plant-based diets may help manage weight issues better

Category: Education, Features

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