Mediterranean diet and depression

A recent study of nearly 11,000 people indicates that following the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, fish, and plants (e.g., veggies, fruits, whole grains), can lower the risk of developing depression. Those who most closely followed the eating patterns of this diet were 30% less likely to develop depression over a 4.4-year period. This press release from EurekAlert gives the details. It’s not clear in any detail why this diet should have this effect. It could well be a synergistic effect of the combination of all the different components of the diet, rather than arising from the presence of any particular nutrient or food. And of course there are plenty of other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

While I’m on the soapbox here, I will mention that I’ve been reading about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and health. The typical American diet contains far more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, and the evidence so far suggests that this is deleterious to health in a number of ways. In particular, a more balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 might be useful in treating depression. If you’re curious, you can check out the Linus Pauling Institute’s Essential Fatty Acids page for more information. Also, several good books about omega-3 fatty acids and health are available, many with recipes; check your local library. [I’m reading The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet: Maximize the Power of Omega-3s to Supercharge Your Health, Battle Inflammation, and Keep Your Mind Sharp by Evelyn Tribole (very clearly written, includes recipes and suggestions for modifying existing recipes). Next on my list is The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them by Susan Allport, which provides more historical context as well as dietary suggestions.]