Mental health researchers, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge, recently published an article on Mad in America, where they summarize and discuss a recent Australian study exploring the connection between improved nutrition and its effect on depression.
The study was a 12-week exploration into the dietary habits and mental health of 67 adults. Participants were randomly assigned to either a dietary support group or a social support group. The dietary group received 7 hours with a dietician, and the social group received 7 hours of a befriending arrangement.
Those in the dietary group were taught a whole-foods Mediterranean approach to diet:
- Whole grains (5–8 servings per day)
- Vegetables (6 per day)
- Fruit (3 per day)
- Legumes (3–4 per week)
- Low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods (2–3 per day)
- Raw and unsalted nuts (1 per day)
- Fish (at least 2 per week)
- Lean red meats (3–4 per week)
- Chicken (2–3 per week)
- Eggs (up to 6 per week)
- Olive oil (3 tablespoons per day)
The dietician also recommended that they reduce intake of processed foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meats, and sugary drinks.
What the researchers discovered after the 12 weeks was that the depression scores of the dietary group had improved much more than the social group. Plus, their scores were significantly correlated with diet changes.
More than that, however, is that out of those who participated in the dietary group, a third had improved so much, that their depression symptoms dropped below the diagnosis threshold.
Keep in mind, that each participant qualified for the study because they had poor diets. Not only did those who had improved their diet improve their depression, but they did so at levels better than just social support, and a significant number of them did so at levels that would cause them to go undiagnosed as having depression.
This is just one more study highlighting the connection between nutrition and mental health.
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