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A Mediterranean diet may alleviate depression

In this 12-week randomized controlled trial completed by 72 young men, a Mediterranean diet alleviated clinical depression.

Background

Depression is a common mental health disorder that can vary in degree of disability. A sharp increase in depression rates has been observed in emerging adulthood, yet young men rarely seek help for mental health.

Emerging adulthood also offers an opportunity for early lifestyle interventions, such as dietary changes, to improve health. The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern associated with many health benefits. Can a Mediterranean diet improve depressive symptoms and quality of life in young men with depression?

The study

This 3-month randomized parallel controlled trial examined the effect of following a Mediterranean diet, compared to a social support control group, on symptoms of depression in young Australian men (ages 18–25) who were diagnosed with depression by a physician or psychologist. The Mediterranean diet was delivered by a clinical nutritionist and was defined as rich in vegetables, legumes and whole grains, oily fish, olive oil, and raw unsalted nuts, based on the dietary guidelines of Greece and Spain. The control group received befriending support sessions in lieu of dietary advice.

Diet adherence was assessed using an adapted Mediterranean Adherence Score (MEDAS). The outcomes were changes in the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) depression scale and quality of life, as assessed by the World Health Organization form, QOL-BREF.

The results

A Mediterranean diet decreased depression symptomatology (lowered the BDI-II score) and increased perceived quality of life in young men with moderate to severe clinical depression. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet among these men was high.

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