Researchers in Australia have discovered there is direct link between your mood and what you eat after revealing the results of a recent study of young adults with depression. They found study participants had significantly fewer symptoms of depression after just three weeks of switching to a healthier diet.
Scientists at Macquarie University concerned with the high risk for depression among young adults published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE. While this is not the first study to show a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meat is associated with lower incidence of depression, this is one of the only to use a randomized, controlled trial to directly establish a link.
Heather Francis and her colleagues worked with 76 university students between the ages of 17 and 35 who ate what is considered a poor diet according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and who were exhibiting moderate-to-high depression symptoms. The foods considered in the poor category included highly processed foods and those high in sugar and saturated fats.
Participants were randomly assigned to a “diet change” group or a “regular diet” group. Those in the diet change group were given instructions on ways to improve their diet as well as a healthy groceries and $60 for future grocery purchases. They also received two follow up phone calls to check their progress.
Conversely, the regular diet group did not receive any diet instructions, groceries or grocery money. They were just asked to return after the three-week period.
All participants were assessed and scored relating to depression, anxiety and overall mood prior to the start. They were also judged on several learning and reasoning tasks.
Participants were then re-tested three-weeks later. Researchers found those in the diet change group were able to maintain a healthy diet and showed significant improvement in mood with depression scores dropping into the normal range. Depression scores for those in the regular diet group stayed in the moderate-to-high range.
Those in the diet change group also scored significantly lower in anxiety tests than their counterparts in the regular diet group but there were no major differences between the groups in other measures.
Researchers followed up with about half of the participants three months later and while only 21 percent were able to maintain a healthy diet, those who did were able to maintain their improvements in mood.