Easter means chocolate around the house for the next few weeks, but did you know chocolate could lead to increased depression symptoms? In 2015, a study on nutritional medicine in the field of psychiatry was published in The Lancet scientific journal. Backed by a number of physicians, psychiatrists, and scientists, this study asserted that as much as diet is known to influence the health of a person’s cardio, endocrine, and gastrointestinal health, its impact on psychiatry is now indisputable. This group of academics advocates the “recognition of diet and nutrition as central determinants of both physical and mental health.”
Modified Mediterranean Diet Study
In 2017, a co-author of the aforementioned study, Dr. Felice Jacka published the results of her study The SMILES Trial. This trial followed 67 men and women who had a clinical diagnosis of moderate to severe depression and who reported eating a relatively unhealthy diet. Half were required to eat a healthy modified Mediterranean diet and attend dietary support sessions with a nutritionist. The other participants ate the same as they had previously but added social support sessions. The modified Mediterranean diet participants in this 12-week study all lowered their depression scores, with 32% going into remission. The participants who ate the same as before did improve but only 8% entered remission. Important to note is that caloric intake was not restricted, so the Mediterranean diet participants did not lose weight.
What is a modified Mediterranean diet? It emphasizes real food essentially: whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy, raw nuts, lean protein, and olive oil. There are a number of factors that may contribute to the success of this diet in combating depression. Refined carbohydrates, found in sugar and flour, are responsible for mood destabilization by creating highs and lows in the levels of blood sugar, insulin, and hormones. Additionally, good fats and oils found in nuts and lean protein are essential for healthy brain functions.
Depression Tackled in Baby Steps
Depression is hard to shake because it robs a person of their motivation or ability to change things like diet. Almost a chicken and egg scenario, when they are depressed they gravitate towards comfort foods that are usually high in refined sugar and carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and salt, like cookies, pizza, and chips. This sort of food contributes to depression, thereby continuing this vicious cycle. If you or someone you know is struggling with severe depression and a healthy diet switch is not in the cards currently, starting with traditional methods like therapy and or medication is great. With professional counseling and medication, a person’s mental health may improve enough to feel ready to tackle their eating habits. If you are looking for further mental health resources, please contact our specialist for help.