The answer is yes, according to research by Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre. This world-leading, multi-disciplinary research centre aims to understand the complex ways that what we eat influences our brain, mood, and mental health.
The SMILES Research by the Centre found that swapping refined carbs and packaged foods for more wholegrains, vegetables and fish, reduced levels of moderate to severe depression.
They followed 166 adults aged 40 for 12 weeks, and found that those who made positive changes to their diet experienced greater reductions in depression than those in a social support group.
While this is a single study, Professor Felice Jacka, lead author of the SMILES trial and director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University, says the results are “very encouraging” and show promise that diet change, along with physical activity, can “help improve resilience”, and possibly prevent at least some mental health problems from developing.
And a small, randomised controlled study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE indicated improving diet can help to alleviate symptoms of depression in as little as three weeks.
The lead author, Dr Heather Francis from Macquarie University, suggested that as depression is associated with chronic inflammation, changing to a healthy diet can reduce inflammation, leading to improved mental health outcomes.
SO HOW CAN WE CHANGE WHAT WE EAT TO IMPROVE OUR MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING?
The SMILES study, the randomised, controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression, published in BMC Medicine, recommended we:
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Sign up for Deakin University’s Food & Mood free, three week, online course to explore how diet quality is a factor – definitely a modifiable factor – linked to mental and brain health across all stages of our lives.
The course will explain the role of our immune system and gut microbiome; provide research evidence; practical examples; skills development; and collaboration on dietary intake assessment, strategies and resource sharing for dietary change – so your nutrition, mental wellbeing and mood can be improved by what you eat. And isn’t that something we all want?