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Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
Date:10/5/2009

Lower incidence seen in Spanish study

MONDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- People who followed the Mediterranean diet, an eating regimen that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts, were less likely to develop depression in a Spanish study.

"We are speaking of a relative reduction in risk of 42 percent to 51 percent," said study co-author Dr. Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra. "This is a strong association."

The Mediterranean diet usually is recommended to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. This study, reported in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is one of only a few to assess its effect on mental function.

The Spanish researchers followed more than 10,000 healthy adults who filled out questionnaires between 1999 and 2005. All were free of depression when the trial started. Their adherence to the Mediterranean diet was measured by looking at nine components, such as low intake of meat, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products, and high intake of fruits, nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish.

After an average follow-up of 4.4 years, the overall incidence of depression for those who most followed the diet was 30 percent lower than for those who most ignored the dietary rules. Even lower rates of depression were associated with intake of specific elements of the Mediterranean diet, such as fruits, vegetables and olive oil.

There are several possible explanations for the reported protective effect, Martinez-Gonzales said. The Mediterranean diet improves the function of the endothelium, the delicate inner lining of blood vessels, which is involved in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule that is responsible for the growth and function of nerve cells, he said. "Dysfunction of BDNF is thought to be responsible for some depressi
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