Depression is a serious mental health issue that is finally getting the attention it deserves now. It’s also one of the most common mental illnesses people deal with. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 300 million of the world’s population suffer from it.
This said experts have been hard at work finding effective treatments and solutions to address this global problem. One such attempt by scientists in Australia yielded positive results linking the decrease of depression symptoms with a healthier diet.
Diet as Therapy
According to the report published by the researchers in the journal PLOS One, a switch to a healthy diet led to fewer symptoms of depression after just three weeks of the diet change.
This finding poses optimistic implications for the treatment of the mental illness. Macquarie University’s Heather Francis, the study’s lead author, also believes that a diet change can be a more cost-effective option for treatment compared to medications.
What more, Francis believes that it is possible for diet changes to act in a similar way as therapy in terms of dealing with the symptoms of depression. WebMD enumerates the common warning signs of the illness as feelings of hopelessness and guilt, loss of interest in hobbies, loss of energy, and having trouble concentrating.
The Food Plan
For the purposes of the study, participants were randomly picked to be assigned into two groups: the habitual-diet group and the diet-change group.
The second group was then showed an instructional video featuring a registered dietician to guide them on their new diet. The guide was based on the popular Mediterranean Diet and the 2003 Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
Going into specifics, the change required people to have up to three servings of whole grains, three servings of lean protein, two to three servings of fruits, and three servings of unsweetened dairy.
Meanwhile, it also recommended a weekly intake of three servings of fish. Other foods suggested for daily consumption are olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, and nuts and seeds. In connection with this, participants had to limit their consumption of processed meats, soft drinks, and refined carbohydrates.
Following three weeks of this meal plan, the researchers found that the participants’ average depression scores dropped down to the normal range. Even more interesting is that the positive improvement lasted up to three months after the experiment.
Francis also pointed out how maintaining a poor diet only increases systemic inflammation which has been associated with depression. This further proves that the illness is a ‘whole-body disorder’ instead of just stemming from the brain.