Two recent studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet may be an antidepressant diet as well as the diet that reduces heart disease, inflammation, and the risk of dementia.
In the SMILES trial 65 patients with depression were randomized to a Mediterranean diet based intervention (a diet support group) or a social support group. The group excluded people who were treatment resistant (two or more failed antidepressant trials).
At three months there was a clinically and statistically significant difference in depression scores favoring the antidepressant diet intervention. See the chart below for a summary of the differences. The diet intervention resulted in a ten point drop on the MADRS rating scale. At the beginning of the trial the average score of 25 was equivalent to a moderate depression, at the end of the trial the average score of 15 was equivalent to a mild depression.
In the HELFIMED trial (where do these people get the names for these studies?) 95 depressed individuals were randomized to receive food deliveries every two weeks and weekly Mediterranean Diet cooking workshops as well as fish oil supplements for 3 months, or a social group control.
“At 3 months, the MedDiet group had a higher MedDiet score (t = 3.95, P < 0.01), consumed more vegetables (t = 3.95, P < 0.01), fruit (t = 2.10, P = 0.04), nuts (t = 2.29, P = 0.02), legumes (t = 2.41, P = 0.02) wholegrains (t = 2.63, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (t = 3.27, P < 0.01); less unhealthy snacks (t = −2.10, P = 0.04) and red meat/chicken (t = −2.13, P = 0.04). The MedDiet group had greater reduction in depression (t = −2.24, P = 0.03) and improved mental health QoL scores (t = 2.10, P = 0.04) at 3 months. Improved diet and mental health were sustained at 6 months. Reduced depression was correlated with an increased MedDiet score (r = −0.298, P = 0.01), nuts (r = −0.264, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (r = −0.303, P = 0.01). Other mental health improvements had similar correlations, most notably for increased vegetable diversity and legumes. There were some correlations between increased omega-3, decreased omega-6 and improved mental health.”
What we particularly like about the HELFIMED trial is that they created a free full color cookbook that includes inspiring and tasty (we have tried them) recipes for those who want to try changing diet.
For More Information
Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Cotton S, Mohebbi M, Castle D, Dash S, Mihalopoulos C, Chatterton ML, Brazionis L, Dean OM, Hodge AM, Berk M. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med. 2017 Jan 30;15(1):23. doi: 10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y. PubMed PMID: 28137247; PubMed Central PMCID:
Parletta N, Zarnowiecki D, Cho J, Wilson A, Bogomolova S, Villani A, Itsiopoulos C, Niyonsenga T, Blunden S, Meyer B, Segal L, Baune BT, O’Dea K. A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. doi:
10.1080/1028415X.2017.1411320. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29215971.