Can Diet Help With Depression?

lovely Asian woman making skewers of fresh veggies - diet and depression

In February, a new study from Australia proved that dietary changes can help with depression. Increasingly, there is study being done to highlight the mind-stomach connection. Everything from diet to gut bacteria is being examined for its relationship to emotional regulation in the brain. The new research from Australia used dietary changes as a control, and proved for the first time that dietary changes can significantly impact the effects of depression.

About the Study

For the groundbreaking study, 67 men and women diagnosed with clinical depression ranging from moderate to severe and who self reported having an unhealthy diet, were observed. Antidepressants, medications, and regular sessions working with a psychotherapist were part of most of the participant’s regular treatment regime for depression. The group was split into two in order to gain concrete evidence on the effect of dietary changes and the impact those changes can have on the presence as well as severity of depression symptoms. Half of the group went on what is called a “Modified Mediterranean” diet and attended sessions with a nutritionist. While the other half of the group remained with their normal unhealthy diets, they also attended social support groups.

The modified mediterranean diet, also called ModiFIed, has been gaining critical acclaim in studies on dietary improvements for mental health. Rich in essential fats, a large focus on vegetables, and only including healthy grains, the mediterranean diet is a brain-focused diet. Limiting sweets, sugars, refined sugars, processed foods, and deep fried foods, the mediterranean diet focuses on whole food eating, including all healthy areas of food groups in every meal.

Utilizing the MADRS scale, the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, the participants graded their depression symptoms on a scale of 0-60. The results of the 12 week study and the effect of the dietary changes on the severity of depression symptoms.

  • Participants in the group on the modified mediterranean diet had their MADRS scores improve by an average of 11 points.
  • 10 out of the 31 participants who completed the 12 weeks adhering to the guidelines of the diet saw such a great reduction in their MADRS scores that they no longer qualified for depression, according to the score criteria.
  • In contrast, the participants in the unhealthy diet group only saw a 4 point improvement in their scores.

Only 2 out of the 25 participants who successfully completed the study achieved a similar drop in their score which would no longer qualify them for depression.

At Cottonwood Tucson, each client works privately with a behavioral health nutritionist to develop a specific meal plan and meal planning skills for after treatment. Diet and exercise are essential to mental health recovery. Our addiction rehab and behavioral health treatment programs highlight diet and exercise as part of our integrative approach to recovery from chemical dependency and co-occurring disorders.

For more information about Cottonwood Tucson, AZ mental health and addiction treatment center, call (888) 727-0441. We are ready to help you or your loved one find lasting recovery.


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