A healthy diet and lifestyle improves not only the physical but also the mental state according to a study led by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland. The prospective follow-up study conducted on more than 2,000 people showed that a healthy diet reduces the risk of severe depression. The study has also shown that those who change their lifestyle and lose weight are much less likely to have depressive symptoms.
Ms Anu Ruusunen, MSc, from the University of Eastern Finland, said the study strengthened the hypothesis that diet not only fight depression but also prevents this mental illness. Usually depressed people have an unhealthy diet and a low intake of nutrients. Despite this , until now it was unclear if diet and consuming various foods and nutrients have anything to do with the risk of depression in healthy individuals.
A healthy diet includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, chicken, low fat cheese, fish, etc. These foods along with regular exercise prevent cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc. Researchers have now shown that this type of diet was associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms during follow- up period.
Another interesting finding was that folate helps prevent depressive symptoms. Folate, or folic acid, is found in a wide range of foods such as liver, meat, berries, vegetables, whole grains, and it seems that increased consumption of folate reduces the risk of depression. Also, researchers have found that increased consumption of coffee is beneficial in reducing this risk. In addition, a lifestyle intervention study conducted over a three year period showed an improvement in depression scores. Furthermore, weight loss was associated with an even greater reduction in depressive symptoms. “The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention,” Ruusunen said.
On the other hand, the study demonstrated that unhealthy food resulted in intensified depressive symptoms. According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland, people who consume sugary drinks, desserts, processed meats, snacks, processed potatoes, etc, are more likely to develop depressive symptoms.
What is interesting is that the study showed that intake of vitamin B1, n-3 PUFAS , serum ratio of n-6 to n-3 PUFAS , tea and coffee consumption do not influence the risk of depression. It should be noted however that these findings are contrary to previous studies.