With 90% of Americans now deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral, and ultra processed foods making up an estimated 60% of all calorie intake in the US, it’s more important than ever to evaluate the impact this has – not only on physical health – but on mental health as well. Most experts agree that there’s a connection between an individuals diet and their overall mood and mental health.
But to what extent does diet affect someone’s likelihood of developing disorders like depression? Studies have shown that a healthy diet helps the brain to cope better with stress. Previous studies has shown that a diet high in sugar and processed food can increase the chances of depression. Another study carried out in Australia found that women who consumed less red meat were more likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders like anxiety or depressive disorder.
Research that has been recently carried out into the effect of diet on depression has shown a strong correlation between the two. The study looked at both men and women who were either taking antidepressants, attending regular psychotherapy or both. All the participants admitted to having unhealthy diets before the study began; high in salt, sugar and processed food and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Half of the participants were then put on a strict healthy diet for three months consisting high amounts of fruit, vegetables, seeds, fish, nuts and olive oil. The other half of the group were asked to attend regular social support sessions.
Their symptoms were graded on a depression scale both before the trial, and at the end of the three month period. The results saw those on healthy diets with an average improvement on 11 points on the scale, compared with 4 points for those using social support. It was also noted that 32% of those on the diet plan scored low enough after the trial that they no longer met the criteria for depression at all.
When commenting on the study, the researchers pointed out that the results seen in the study may be down to the way that diet affects the immune system. Research into the connection between inflammation in the body and mood has shown that compounds with anti-inflammatory effects can reduce some of the symptoms of depression. They also believe that some types of depression could be down to the brain’s response to inflammation. If this is the case, it’s a real possibility that dietary changes could be used an effective treatment option for sufferers.