There’s no arguing with the fact that a Mediterranean-style diet is just about the best choice for physical health and longevity. But a growing body of evidence is also reporting that the famous diet is good not only for the body, but also for the brain—and importantly, the mind. A new study in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry finds that a Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk for depression, considerably. It’s not the first to suggest this, but it is the largest meta-analysis to date.
The team, from University College London, looked back over 40 earlier studies analyzing the connection between diet and depression risk. They used various methods of analyzing what people ate: for instance, some used the DASH diet score, others the Dietary Inflammatory Index. Four studies looked specifically at consumption of the Mediterranean diet and depression risk over the years. The team made certain that all studies included took potentially confounding variables, like age, sex, smoking, physical activity level, income, body size, and overall health, into account.
When all was said and done, there were strong links between eating a healthy, Mediterranean style diet and reduced depression risk.
“We found that people with a more Mediterranean-like diet had a 33 percent lower risk of developing depression than people whose diet least resembled a Mediterranean diet,” writes study author Camille Lassale in The Conversation. This statistic compares people who stuck most closely to a Mediterranean diet to those who ate it least frequently. Comparing studies that looked specifically at inflammatory components (sugar, saturated fats), people who ate the least inflammatory diets had a 24% reduced risk for depression.