In addition, olive oil improves the binding of serotonin to its receptors "and serotonin is a key neurotransmitter in depression," he said. "In fact, Prozac acts by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain."
And the omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish might help improve the function of the central nervous system, Martinez-Gonzalez said. "All these mechanisms may lead to an improved brain function and a greater resilience to better face the frustrations of every day, to control stress, and so on," he said.
But Martinez-Gonzalez does not recommend that people diagnosed with depression try to treat it by adopting this diet. "The Mediterranean diet might be ideal for the prevention of depression, but not for its treatment," he said. "For those patients who already have depression, the best thing they can do is to seek the proper medical treatment by a psychiatrist."
"It's not surprising to see these results," said Dr. David Mischoulon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "They are what we would have expected to see on the basis of previous information. There is a very large body of work in the psychiatric literature saying that components of the Mediterranean diet when looked at separately have such an effect."
Mischoulon agreed that he would not recommend the diet as a treatment for existing depression. "A person in an episode of depression needs more direct and more targeted intervention," he said.
But the study adds one more reason for adopting the Mediterranean diet, Mischoulon said. "If you have a family history of depression and you are concerned about it, a diet like this probably would be a good place to start," he said.
The Mediterranean diet is explained by the American Heart Association.
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