Mediterranean Diet Reduces Depression Risk

Saturday, October 17, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: depression, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) There's yet another reason why eating the Mediterranean way is not only delicious but extraordinarily healthy. In addition to helping prevent and even treat type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome ( ), heart disease, dementia ( and obesity, the Mediterranean diet, which consists of lots of fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish, also helps keep depression at bay. That's the conclusion of new research just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

According to background information in the study, the rate of mental disorders over the course of a lifetime is lower in the Mediterranean region than in Northern European countries. That observation suggested to researchers that the way people eat in Mediterranean countries could play a role in better mental health. In fact, earlier research has indicated monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil, which are used abundantly in the Mediterranean diet, could lower the risk of clinical depression.

Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, B.Pharm., Ph.D., of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Clinic of the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and colleagues investigated 10,094 healthy Spanish participants who completed an initial questionnaire between 1999 and 2005. The research subjects kept track of what they ate daily by using a food frequency list. The scientists then calculated adherence to the Mediterranean diet based on these nine measurements: a high ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids, moderate intake of alcohol, moderate consumption of dairy products, low intake of meat and a high consumption of legumes, fruit, nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish.

After approximately 4.4 years of follow-up, 480 research subjects were diagnosed with depression, including 156 men and 324 women. However, the people who had followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had a greater than 30 percent reduction in the risk of depression than whose who had the lowest Mediterranean diet scores.

"The specific mechanisms by which a better adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern could help to prevent the occurrence of depression are not well known," the authors wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry research paper. "Components of the diet may improve blood vessel function, fight inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-related cell damage, all of which may decrease the chances of developing depression."

"However, the role of the overall dietary pattern may be more important than the effect of single components. 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," the scientists concluded.

Although antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and Paxil are now the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S.(, there are numerous natural alternatives to these risky, mind altering chemicals. As NaturalNews has reported previously, a host of natural strategies are known to help fight depression including yoga (, eating sunflower seeds ( and getting adequate amounts of vitamin D (

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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