Studies have been brought together in a new report published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, discussing the benefits of a plant-based diet in reducing the symptoms of depression. The report notes that depression incurs “the largest societal costs in developed countries,” and that “there is a need to gather evidence on the role of nutrition in depression, to help develop recommendations and guide future psychiatric health care.”

Mediterranean diets consist of components that are important for good health: fruit, legumes, vegetables, cereals. Whilst fish is noted as a ‘beneficial’ food, meat and dairy are recognised as ‘detrimental’.

The studies found that a largely Mediterranean diet is beneficial to decrease the risk of developing the symptoms of depression, and avoiding a diet with high levels of inflammatory foods, such as meat and dairy.

Dr Camille Lasalle, leader of the study at University College London, said: “There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health.

“There is also emerging evidence that shows that the relationship between the gut and brain plays a key role in mental health and that this axis is modulated by gastrointestinal bacteria, which can be modified by our diet.”

Whilst some experts are calling for more research, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, Naveed Sattar, is within the opinion of airing on the side of caution. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Whilst eating healthier is good for many reasons, we need more evidence before we can say plant-rich diets can improve mental health.

“The only way to prove whether the links are genuine is to conduct large randomised trials in people at risk of depression. Such trials would take considerable effort, but seem worthwhile to conduct.”

If you are concerned about your mental health, speak to your GP for medical advice. Alternatively, contact Mind, Samaritans or the Mental Health Foundation.

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