Diet and depression — a follow-up note

In the Summer 2009 SUPPLEMENT, our feature story was entitled “Are You Ready to Join the Food Revolution?” The article referred to recent research highlighting a relationship between traditional diets, such as the Mediterranean or Chinese diet, and lower risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and even depression. So we were interested to read in our hometown newspaper The New York Times about a new report of findings about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. A large-scale epidemiological study in Spain again showed an association between the traditional Mediterranean diet and lower rates of mental health conditions like depression. Very interesting as well is this line of thinking from one of the researchers about why this diet should be linked to lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and depression:

Both cardiovascular disease and depression share “common mechanisms related to endothelium function and inflammation,” said Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, professor of preventive medicine at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and senior author of the paper, published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

“The membranes of our neurons are composed of fat, so the quality of fat that you are eating definitely has an influence on the quality of the neuron membranes, and the body’s synthesis of neurotransmitters is dependent on the vitamins you’re eating,” Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez added. “We think those with lowest adherence to the Mediterranean dietary plan have a deficiency of essential nutrients.”

The elements of the diet most closely linked to a lower risk of depression were fruits and nuts, legumes and a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats, the study found.



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