7 studies connecting the Mediterranean diet with better mental health

If you follow health news, you’ve probably noticed that for some time, the Mediterranean diet has been touted for its many health benefits. It’s been connected with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of diabetes, and even longer lifespan.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

A 2003 study defined the traditional Mediterranean diet as follows:

  • High intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, and cereals
  • High intake of olive oil
  • Low intake of saturated fats
  • Moderately high intake of fish (depending on sea proximity)
  • Low-to-moderate intake of dairy products (mostly in the form of cheese or yogurt)
  • Low intake of meat and poultry
  • Regular but moderate intake of ethanol (primarily wine and generally during meals)

Mediterranean diet and mental health

Another one of its health benefits that recently emerged in clinical research is improved mental health.

As scientists grew more confident in their conclusions of the effect the Mediterranean diet had on mental health, they started to expand their research to include mental health.

Here on our blog, we have reported on dozens of studies linking the Mediterranean diet to improved mental health. Here are the 10 most recent:

  1. A November 2018 study in Nutritional Neuroscience reported that participants who followed the Mediterranean diet saw significant improvements in processing speed, mood disturbance, tension, depression, anger, and confusion.
  2. Researchers in Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, and the United States found that older adults who had depression were less likely to follow a Mediterranean diet. Conversely, those without depression were more likely to follow a Mediterranean diet.
  3. Iranian researchers reported that teen girls who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had a nearly 60% lower prevalence of depression compared to those who followed the Mediterranean diet the least.
  4. In October 2017, Dutch and Australian researchers published a study showing that participants in their Mediterranean diet group had lower scores for anxiety, anger, fatigue, alertness, contentedness, and confusion; had lower total mood disturbances, and had higher vigour and activity scores. Their control group, on the other hand, showed no significant change in any measures.
  5. Researchers in Spain found that people over 75 who consumed a Mediterranean diet had higher levels of cognitive function, compared to those who didn’t.
  6. In a study of 120 children and teenagers, Spanish researchers claimed that the less participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, the more likely they were to be diagnosed with ADHD.
  7. Hoping to see if a Mediterranean diet improved life quality and decreased pain, stiffness, disability, and depression, researchers in Italy and the UK studied nearly 4,500 participants in North America. they observed that participants who more strictly followed a Mediterranean diet had a higher quality of life, less pain, lower disability, and lower depression.

These are 7 more studies in a growing body of research showing a connection between what we eat and our mental health. Here at Truehope, we’ve been promoting nutrition as mental health treatment for over 20 years.