The Mediterranean Diet Against Depression and Anxiety

nutrition diet healthThe Mediterranean diet is a diet associated with the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe. The diet varies slightly with geographical region, but is broadly similar. The diet consists of olives, olive oil, vegetables and fruits, meat in the form of mainly fowl or fish, some dairy, whole grains, nut and seeds as well as red wine. Because the diet contains a large proportion of plants foods, it is considered to contain a large amount of various phytochemicals, particularly, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin E and vitamin C. The red wine, olives and the fruits and vegetables present in the diet supply most of the phytochemicals, with the nuts, seeds and olive oil being a particularly good source of vitamin E. The Mediterranean diet may confer protection from a number of diseases, and this may be due to the high amounts of antioxidants it contains. As depression and anxiety are associated with a low antioxidant status and lipid peroxidation, the Mediterranean diet may be a good diet to treat patients with depression.

Mediterranean diet depression anxiety

The Mediterranean diet therefore appears to show particular health benefits to those that consume in regularly. As well as physical health, the Mediterranean diet shows benefits to mental health, with adherence to the diet associated with a lower risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and anxiety. One study assessed the effects of the Mediterranean diet by measuring the closeness of the diets of the subjects to a typical Mediterranean diet. At the start of the study all of the subjects were free of depressive symptoms. The researchers then followed these subjects for just over 7 years. The result of the study showed that those whose diets most closely matched the Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms. Consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, olives, fish or fowl and legumes, may therefore protect from the development of depression over time.

The association between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and depression has been assessed in a number of studies. One group of researchers searched the nutritional literature and analysed the data from a number of these studies. The conclusion from the anayisis showed that a high adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of depression in all age groups. Even a modest adherence to the diet was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of depression, particularly in the young. In another study, ‘anxiety and worry’ were associated with a low adherence to the Mediterranean diet, whereas ‘positive feelings’ were associated with a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Therefore evidence suggests that consumption of the Mediterranean diet is associated with less worry, less depression and more positive feelings in subjects that adhere to the diet. Even when adherence to the diet is moderate, the risk of depression appears to be lower.

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Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R. and Scarmeas, N. 2013. Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Annals of Neurology. 74(4): 580-591
Antonogeorgos, G., Panagiotakos, D. B., Pitsavos, C., Papegeorgiou, C., Chrysohoou, C., Papadimitriou, G. N. and Stefanadis, C. 2012. Understanding the role of depression and anxiety on cardiovascular disease risk, using structural equation modeling; the mediating effect of the Mediterranean diet and physical activity: the ATTICA study. Annals of Epidemiology. 22: 630-637
Skarupski, K. A., Tangney, C. C., Li, H., Evans, D. A. and Morris, M. C. 2013. Mediterranean diet and depressive symptoms among older adults over time. Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing. 17(5): 441-445

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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