More than 15 million Americans suffer from serious depression, and it is estimated that globally some 350 million people are struggling with the challenging mental disorder. While the causes of depression are varied and largely unidentifiable, since the 1950s the pharmaceutical industry has been developing a broad range of antidepressants, and it now estimated that 8-10% of the American population is taking some type of antidepressants.
The problems with antidepressants are wide-ranging including addiction, costs, and a host of unfavorable side-effects including emotional numbness and even an increased risk of suicide. While antidepressants may very well help some people cope with the overwhelming effects of depression in the short term, pharmaceutical treatments do not cure depression.
Pondering the reasons for such a major increase in depression in our society over the last couple of decades, many have speculated that a combination of lifestyle, social disconnectedness in a technologically advanced society, lack of exercise, environmental pollutants, and increased consumption of nutritionless and heavily processed foods are to blame. Yet, medical science has been slow to fully acknowledge and recommend lifestyle changes to patients, often preferring the recommendation of pharmaceuticals.
A world-first study, however, recently conducted by Deakin University in Australia has shown unequivocally that major depression can be conquered with the right dietary changes.
We’ve known for some time that there is a clear association between the quality of people’s diets and their risk for depression. This is the case across countries, cultures and age groups, with healthy diets associated with reduced risk, and unhealthy diets associated with increased risk for depression. However, this is the first randomised controlled trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can actually treat clinical depression. ~Professor Felice Jacka, Director of Deakin’s Food and Mood Centre
The study looked at adults with major depression, evaluating their progress with specific dietary changes over a three-month period, revealing the types of foods which help the most.
The dietary group received information and assistance to improve the quality of their current diets, with a focus on increasing the consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts, while reducing their consumption of unhealthy ‘extras’ foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks.
In addition to the quality of one’s diet, depression is now also scientifically linked to inflammation in the body, as well as the health of the body’s microbiota, both of which are heavily influenced by the foods one chooses to consume.
The Deakin University study adds another crucial piece to the puzzle, and is an extremely important contribution to the ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence of people who have beaten their depression by taking control of many aspects of their lifestyle.