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Dec. 2 2009 - 11:54 pm | 24 views | 1 recommendation | 3 comments

Eat crap, and feel like it too!

With the holiday eating season in full swing, if you are not careful you may do more than just add to your waistline.  We all sort of knew it, but how and what you eat can profoundly influence whether or not you become depressed.

Association of the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern With the Incidence of Depression
Sánchez-Villegas, A., Delgado-Rodríguez, M, et. al
Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009;66(10):1090-1098.

10,094 university graduates in Spain were followed for an average of 4.4 years to study the relationship between diet and depression. The researchers found the risk of depression was about 30% higher among those who ate a diet of refined foods compared to those who ate a traditional mediterranean diet. They specifically found the more you ate  fruit and nuts and legumes and had a higher monounsaturated- to saturated-fatty-acid ratio in your diet the less clinical depression there was.

And then from “across the pond.”

Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age
Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, , et. al.
British Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Nov;195(5):408-13.

Researchers compared two different diets: ‘whole food’ (heavily loaded by vegetables, fruits and fish) and ‘processed food’ (heavily loaded by sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products). In the middle-aged English people they followed for 5 years, the ‘processed food’ dietary pattern was found to be a risk factor for depression.   The ‘whole food’ (not to be confused with shopping at Whole Foods, aka, Whole Paycheck) was protective and associated with less depression.

Of course, if you are someone who tends to be down in the dumps you may also be someone who  too often reaches for a pepperoni pizza and the nearest pint of Ben and Jerry’s instead of some hummus with whole-wheat pita. But this research does suggest, although not experimentally prove, that bad diets can indeed be risk factors for depression. We just may need to change the old cliche,  ”a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,” to include “a lifetime on the hippocampus.”

(Thanks to Dr. Lynn D. Johnson of the Brief Therapy Center in Salt Lake City for clueing me in to these articles!)


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  1. collapse expand

    People have been saying you are what you eat for a long time. So, will American psychiatrists start scaling back on the Prozac and start prescribing cashews, turmeric and pomegranates? Will the drug companies go nuts?

    • collapse expand

      Staying close to the data, these studies only identify risk factors, not treatment approaches. For now, data says the treatment of choice is good therapy combined with the right medication. The sound advice that whole grains and NO processed foods is good for you is, well, sound advice!

      As for the cashews, tumeric, and pomegranates, I can imagine a spread with that combo would make a pretty tasty canape!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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