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This one diet may prevent depression, study finds

In 2017 there was an average of 8.6 deaths by suicide in Australia each day. Now, new research finds you can actually eat your way to a healthier brain and happier you. 

Image: iStockSource:BodyAndSoul

From helping with weight loss, to reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes, to even improving sleeping habits, studies have shown time and time again the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet. Now, new research has shown this diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts, could help lower a person’s risk of depression.

Researchers from the University College London examined 41 observational studies that had assessed how closely people followed a healthy diet and how this linked to symptoms of depression.

Of the 41 studies, 21 were longitudinal (they followed people over a period of time), and 20 were cross-sectional (a snapshot study).

The results, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found those who followed a strict Mediterranean diet had a 33 per cent lower risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to people who were least likely to follow these eating habits.

"There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health," said Camille Lassale, research associate at University College London's department of epidemiology and public health in the UK.

"This relationship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can in turn affect your mood."

Moreover, the research found that those whose diets were “pro-inflammatory” – high in inflammatory substances such as processed meats, sugar, and saturated fat – had a higher risk of depression.

"A pro-inflammatory diet can induce systemic inflammation, and this can directly increase the risk for depression,” explained Lassale.

The scientists found several factors directly linked to brain damage – oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and inflammation – can actually be controlled by an individual’s diet.

Previous studies have shown there is a direct correlation between the gut and brain, which could explain the reason behind the study’s findings.

In Australia alone, approximately 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and within one year, around one million Australian adults are diagnosed with depression.

The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways of eating for both your heart and your mind.

It’s based on the traditional foods and lifestyles of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, especially Crete in Greece.

While there is no one right way to follow the diet, consuming more fish, fruit and nuts, and less sugar, is the key aspect.

The Basics

Eat: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.

Eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese, and yoghurt.

Eat rarely: red meat.

Avoid: sugary beverages, processed meats, refined grains and oils, highly processed packaged foods, added sugars.

Before making any changes to your diet, consult your health practitioner or GP.