Recent study findings show how following a healthy diet pattern, like the Mediterranean diet, that incorporates fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts while being low in processed meats can reduce the risk of becoming depressed. This link between how we eat and our minds is a new area for research that has historically only focused on how diet affects the physical body. A new study has compared several healthy diet patterns and their reduction in the risk of depression development.
The study focused on three diets in particular: the Mediterranean diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern, and Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010. The diets were tracked by a scoring system by participants who documented how closely they followed the diet pattern so researchers knew how healthy each participant was eating.
For foods like meat and sweets, which are common sources of animal fat and saturated fatty acids, were given a negative score in the tracking records of participants. Foods like nuts, fruits, and vegetables, which are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, received positive scores in participant diaries.
The hypothesis of the researchers was that healthy eating leads to a healthy mind state. The benefits of a good diet on the physical body are obvious, but the extent to which they help the mind has been not well understood. Nutritional properties of nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables may reduce depression by supplying the brain with enough omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
The study tracked the mental health of 15,093 depression free participants over the course of 10 years. At the end of the study period it was found that 1,550 people had become clinically depressed or were prescribed anti-depressant drugs.
Results from the study showed that the dietary pattern associated with the least amount of depression was The Alternative Eating Index-2010. This dietary pattern is so similar to the Mediterranean Diet, however, that it is thought that they share the same factors in affecting the risk of depression. Both diets emphasize intake of omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables coupled with low alcohol intake.
Interestingly, sticking to these diet patterns rigidly showed no extra benefit in comparison to moderate adherence to dietary patterns. This means that participants who mostly tried to eat well, with exceptions here and there, had the exact some benefits of protection from depression as people who ate only as their diet prescribed.
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