We know that a Mediterranean Diet is good for the body: it's been strongly linked with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and overall mortality. But it's also been shown to be good for the mind: even a moderate adherence to a Mediterranean style diet can significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Now it seems that a Mediterranean diet may be linked to a lower risk of depression. Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited almost 3,500 civil servants between the ages of 35 and 55 to undergo clinical examinations and answer both food and lifestyle and depression questionnaires over a period between 1985 and 2004 (B J Psych 2009:195;408-413).
About every five years the participants were contacted and either filled out a written questionnaire or underwent a clinical exam along with the written questionnaire. The researchers grouped participants' responses to a food questionnaire into two dietary patterns: a "whole foods" group, in which participants tended to eat more vegetables, fruits and fish; and a "processed foods" group whose diets tended to include more fried foods, processed meat pies, refined grains, high-fat dairy products and desserts/sweets.
Researchers compared the diets of those who scored over 15 on the CES-D scale with those who scored 15 and below, taking into account age, gender, marital status, education, Body Mass Index and cholesterol levels.
They found that those who tended to eat the most processed foods were 42% more likely to score over 15 on the CES-D scale. Realizing that their work could be measuring the effect of depression on diet and not the effect of diet on depression, the researchers excluded those who self-identified as having depression and compared the remaining participants' diets with their scores five years later. Their results remained basically the same.
We don't know for sure just what might be responsible for this association between better diet and less depression. The researchers theorize that it might be the higher levels of folic acid found in some foods more often found in a healthy diet, such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, lentils and chickpeas. Higher fish consumption, with its higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, might also be a factor. All in all, another reason to eat well and eat healthy. You'll enjoy life more!
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
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