Less depression added to benefits of Mediterranean diet

Oct 5 2009 - 9:10pm
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New findings show that consuming a Mediterranean diet is associated with less depression. The findings that eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish, all part of a Mediterranean diet, comes from a study of 10,094 healthy Spanish adults. The study adds to a long list of health benefits associated with adopting the diet for health and well-being.

Researchers say there is a lower incidence of depression in Mediterranean countries, compared to Northern Europe. The notion that a Mediterranean diet could be responsible for fighting depression was found in the study among participants who closely adhered to high intake of fish, low intake of red meat, moderate use of alcohol and dairy products, and high intake of fruits, nuts and other legumes, cereals, and vegetables. A well known benefit of eating a Mediterranean diet is reduced risk of heart disease.

After four years, the group consuming a Mediterranean diet was thirty percent less likely to experience symptoms of depression, though researchers are not sure why. Eating a Mediterranean diet has a multitude of benefits.

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Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, B. Pharm, PhD, of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Pamplona, Spain, and colleagues say, "It is plausible that the synergistic combination of a sufficient provision of omega-three fatty acids together with other natural unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants from olive oil and nuts, flavonoids and other phytochemicals from fruit and other plant foods and large amounts of natural folates and other B vitamins in the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern may exert a fair degree of protection against depression." No one single component of the appears to be responsible for protecting from depression. The benefit of eating Mediterranean foods could be linked to reduced inflammation in the body.

Research published this year shows that the diet is beneficial for diabetes management, could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and help fight metabolic syndrome. Other benefits of a Mediterranean diet include helping with weight loss.

Contributors to depression could be the result of blood vessel inflammation and cell damage from free radicals. It is possible that a Mediterranean diet is linked to lower incidence of depression because the diet, taken as a whole, balances and repairs cells. The findings that eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with lower incidence of depression should be well worth considering for anyone looking for a diet that can prevent and manage disease.

Reference: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(10):1090-1098

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