Can Depression Be Treated with Diet?

It may not be so farfetched. I’m not talking about stocking up on comfort food and binging. Rather, an intriguing study was just published that looked into whether it might be possible to use certain foods to help reduce symptoms of depression.


Researchers in Australia wanted to find out if improving the diets of people who were depressed would help them feel better over a 12-week period.[1] They randomly assigned people already in treatment for depression to either a dietary intervention group or a social support control group.


The people in the diet group filled out a food diary and then received 7 individual counseling sessions from a registered dietitian. The social support group met with trained support personnel using the same schedule as the participants in the diet group, but they did not receive any dietary advice.


The diet group ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meat, chicken, seafood, unsalted nuts, eggs, and olive oil. And they ate fewer sweets, fried foods, refined cereals, fast food, processed meats, and sugary drinks.


The study was small, so the results are preliminary. But the outcome was striking. Compared to the control group the diet group had a significant improvement in depressive symptoms at 12 weeks.


More research needs to be done to see if these results can be confirmed. But from a health perspective there is really no down side. Even if it turns out that this result doesn’t hold up, you’re still doing your heart a favor and lowering your risk of cancer by eating this kind of diet.





[1] Jacka et al. BMC Medicine (2017) A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the “SMILES” Trial) 15:23 DOI 10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y


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