In the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the publications of the Journal of the American Medical Association, it is indicated that Mediterranean diet prevents the occurrence of depression. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by an abundance of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts as well as fish.
Why Does The Mediterranean Diet Prevent Depression
Historically, there are fewer cases of mental disorders in the Mediterranean region compared to Northern European countries. One of the explanations proffered for this phenomenon is that the diet consumed in the region tends to protect against depression. Research has indicated that this is due to the presence of the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil. Olive oil is a common ingredient used in dishes prepared in the Mediterranean and is thought to alleviate the symptoms of severe depression.
Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, B.Pharm., Ph.D., of University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Clinic of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain spearheaded a study conducted on 10,094 participants. Healthy individuals took note of the food they consumed by answering a food frequency questionnaire. Researchers then assessed the diets’ similarities to Mediterranean diets based on the nine components. These included the high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, low amount of alcohol and dairy products, low consumption of meat, and large amounts of legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, fish, and vegetables.
A follow-up study was conducted after 4.4 years and it was discovered that there were 480 cases of depression with 324 of these occurring in women. Those that adhered to the Mediterranean diet experienced as much as 30 percent reduction the risk of depression compared to those who deviated from the Mediterranean diet the most. This outcome was not altered even when other healthy lifestyle markers such as marital status were considered.
More studies need to be conducted in order to determine specifically why the Mediterranean diet prevents depression. One of the suspected causes for this is that this type of diet improves bodily systems such as blood vessel functions and reduction of heart disease. When overall health improves, depression may likely be prevented.
It is also possible that the nutrients found in the olive oil and nuts may be the reason for the Mediterranean diet’s effectiveness against depression. Foods associated with the region are high in flavonoids, phytochemicals, natural folates, and other B vitamins can contribute to lowering the risk. Another explanation that needs to be studied further is the combination of omega-three fatty acids and other unsaturated fatty acids and oxidants to reduce depression.