The University of South Australia scientists have discovered that incorporating fish oil into a Mediterranean diet can improve mental health in people suffering from depression.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional cuisines of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy, and involves consuming plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can prevent heart disease and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in fish oil and certain types of marine algae, can reduce pain and inflammation and prevent blood clotting.
They are also known to benefit heart health in healthy people and those with a high risk of heart disease.
Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are believed to have the most potential for improving the mood of people with mood disorders.
The study included 152 adults aged 18-65 with self-reported depression.
They were either given fortnightly food hampers and Mediterranean diet cooking workshops for three months and fish oil supplements for six months or attended social groups fortnightly for three months.
The participants’ mental health, quality of life, and dietary habits were evaluated throughout the study period.
The researchers found that participants on the Mediterranean diet ate more vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, and fewer unhealthy snacks and red meat/chicken.
They also had a greater reduction in depression and improved quality of life at three months, which was maintained at six months.
The team concluded that this is one of the first clinical trials to show that a healthy dietary change, particularly a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fish oil, is achievable and can improve the mental health of adults with depression.
The research is published in Nutritional Neuroscience and was conducted by Natalie Parletta et al.
If you care about depression, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to a higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and flavonoid-rich foods could help prevent dementia.
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