From our research with GLWS, clinical observations, published research and, sadly, from personal experiences within our own families, we know that depression has a devastating impact on personal wellbeing.
We also know that reducing your processed food consumption is good for your physical health. But the impact of what you eat on your mental health is only now coming into sharp scientific focus.
There’s evidence of a robust association between diet and risk of depression. What you eat has a much greater impact than social support on reducing depression.
One consistent biological feature of depression is an elevated immune response, or inflammation. For some sufferers, inflammation may contribute to the severity of their depressive symptoms.
The Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) is a scale of how likely certain foods are to causing inflammation. A higher DII score is linked to higher inflammatory markers in the body.
In one observational study of over 4000, researchers found women with high DII scores were far more likely to develop recurrent depression. This effect was independent of other health factors.
In another large study, participants in the highest quartile for sugar consumption had the greatest depression risk. Those with diets high in nutrients were associated with reduced risk.
A three-month study compared the effects of a good diet with the effects of good social support. Participants in the food-controlled group received cooking lessons, supplements, and a Mediterranean-style diet. Participants in the socially-controlled group attended fortnightly social meet ups.
The food-controlled group showed significant reduction in depression, and an increase in mental health-related quality of life.
Other key findings from the study were:
- A Mediterranean diet is associated with lower depression and anxiety, and better Quality of Life (QoL)
- Vegetable consumption is associated with less stress and more positive emotions.
- Fruit consumption is associated with less anxiety and more positive emotions and relationships.
- Higher intake of nuts is associated with reduced depression, anxiety and stress, and better mental health and overall QoL.
- Higher intake of legumes is associated with reduced anxiety and stress, and greater overall QoL.
- Greater diversity of vegetable intake is associated with reduced depression, anxiety and negative emotion.
- When added to a greater diversity of fruit, this was also associated with increased mental health, happiness and overall QoL.
- Reduced intake of takeaway food is associated with better pain and overall physical health QoL.
- Reduced intake of unhealthy snacks is associated with improved mental health and QoL.
There can be no doubt – improving diet alongside standard treatment improves mental health.
Our coaching tips:
- Recognise the limits of your professional boundaries and honour the complexity of depression.
- If low mood, low energy and signs of stress and anxiety concern your clients, explore these constructively.
- In addition to established components of mental health care, introduce the concept of diet as a significant variable.
- Share the findings about foods likely to elevate inflammation.
- Explore adoption of a Mediterranean-style diet and reduction of processed foods
- Monitor over a 1-3 month period with a food and mood journal.
You can learn more about GLWS accreditation here.