A better diet can help young men overcome depression

The study contributes to the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry.


Depression is a common mental health condition that mainly affects young adults. It is a significant risk factor for suicide, the leading cause of death in young adults.

A new study assessed the impact of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young men. They were surprised to see that young men with poor diets saw a significant improvement in their symptoms of depression.

A 12-week, parallel-group, open-label, randomized control trial was conducted to assess the effect of a Mediterranean diet in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in young males.

Lead researcher Jessica Bayes, a Ph.D. candidate in the UTS Faculty of Health, said, “We were surprised by how willing the young men were to take on a new diet,” Bayes said. “Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet were able to significantly change their original diets, under the guidance of a nutritionist, over a short time frame.”

“It suggests that medical doctors and psychologists should consider referring depressed young men to a nutritionist or dietitian as an important component of treating clinical depression.”

The research adds to the growing discipline of nutritional psychiatry, which strives to investigate the impact of specific nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns on mental health. The diet used in the study consisted primarily of colorful vegetables, legumes, whole grains, oily fish, olive oil, and raw, unsalted nuts.

Bayes said“The primary focus was on increasing diet quality with fresh whole foods while reducing the intake of ‘fast’ foods, sugar, and processed red meat.”

“There are lots of reasons why scientifically we think food affects mood. For example, around 90 percent of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes. There is emerging evidence that these microbes can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis.”

“To have beneficial microbes, we need to feed them fiber, found in legumes, fruits, and vegetables.”

“Roughly 30 percent of depressed patients fail to adequately respond to standard treatments for major depressive disorder such as cognitive behavior therapy and anti-depressant medications.”

“Nearly all our participants stayed with the program. Many were keen to continue the diet once the study ended, which shows how effective, tolerable and worthwhile they found the intervention.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica Bayes, Janet Schloss, David Sibbritt. The effect of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young males (the “AMMEND” study): A Randomized Control Trial. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac106


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