A number of studies over the years have linked healthy diets with lowered odds of developing depression, but the relationship between what we eat and how we feel hasn’t been fully explored. Here to expand upon that work is a study recently published in PLOS, where researchers detailed their work on assessing whether improving a depressed person’s diet may decrease the severity of their depression.
The study was led by Heather Francis of Macquarie University in Australia; it was relatively small, involving a total of 76 college students ages 17 through 35. All of the participants showed symptoms indicative of mild-to-severe depression at the start of the study. All of the participants also consumed poor diets at the time, meaning ones high in sugar, saturated fat, and processed food.
As part of the work, the students were split into two groups, one that ate a ‘regular’ diet and another that ate a healthy diet. The students were simply given instructions on how to improve their diet, as well as some health food and a bit of money for other groceries.
After three weeks, both groups were assessed and it was found that the healthy eaters had experienced a drop in depression putting them in the ‘normal’ range, as well as a significant drop in anxiety. The group that continued to eat an ordinary diet, however, didn’t show any changes in depression levels.
Three months later, the researchers found that 33 of the participants were still mostly eating a healthy diet and that they had continued to experience the improvements in their moods. The findings indicate that for some people, regularly eating processed foods, large quantities of sugar, and other unhealthy foods may drive depression and anxiety.