A healthy diet has long been associated with good diabetes management, and researchers now think it could also aid depression.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop depression, which is the most common psychiatric disorder amongst those with diabetes.
Eating a healthy diet can help with several aspects of diabetes management, such as blood glucose levels, and this new Australian study shows there is a link between what people eat and improving symptoms of depression.
“We’ve known for some time that there is a clear association between the quality of people’s diets and their risk for depression,” said Professor Felice Jacka, Director of Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre.
“This is the case across countries, cultures and age groups, with healthy diets associated with reduced risk, and unhealthy diets associated with increased risk for depression.”
The researchers investigated the efficacy of a dietary improvement program for the treatment of major depressive episodes.
They divided 67 participants into two groups across three months. One group was given social support, while the other received advice from a dietitian who encouraged them to eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meat and nuts whilst snacking less and eating fewer foods that contain refined grains and sugar.
After three months, a third of the diet group had less symptoms linked to their depression and were deemed in remission for depression. Only eight per cent of the social support group achieved this remission.
“These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change,” said Jacka. “Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.”
This study is the first randomised control trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can treat clinical depression, and it is thought these findings could help aid future treatments for depression.
“While approximately half of sufferers are helped by currently available medical and psychological therapies, new treatment options for depression are urgently needed,” added Jacka.
“Importantly, depression also increases the risk of and, in turn, is also increased by common physical illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Successfully improving the quality of patients’ diets would also benefit these illnesses.”
The findings have been published in the journal BMC Medicine.
For more information on eating healthily, visit our award-winning Low Carb Program, which has been recently updated to include an entire new section of helpful content under the Lifestyle tab.