The Mediterranean diet has been highly touted for helping to improve physical health, and a new study indicates that it may also help to curb the risk of developing depression.
Researchers conducted a review of 41 studies that examined the connection between diet and depression risk. Four of them, which included more than 36,000 people in the US and Europe, looked specifically at the Mediterranean diet and depression risk. The Mediterranean diet is one that is rich in in fish, olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables. It minimizes meat consumption and avoids processed foods and those that are high in saturated fats and sugars.
People that followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a 33% lower risk of developing depression, according to results presented in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
As to why the Mediterranean diet may protect against depression, researchers say that anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant elements found in the foods help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Inflammation in the brain can also impact chemicals there known as neurotransmitters, which send messages between nerve cells that regulate mood.
A study published last year assigned people with depression to start either a Mediterranean-based diet or a social support group. While depression symptoms in both groups improved, those in the Mediterranean group saw bigger improvements.