Based on available data, depression affects up to 150 million throughout the world. Yet, relatively little information is known about the impact and role of diet in the development of depressive disorders. Research has suggested that omega 3 fatty acids, b-complex vitamins, as well as olive oil may have a role in preventing the development of depression.
A study published in PloS in 2011 (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0016268), demonstrated that consumption of trans fatty acids (TFA) was associated with a significantly increased risk of developing depression. Compared with individuals who consumed a diet low in TFA, individuals with higher consumption of TFA had up a 48% increase risk of developing depression.
Cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common pathways ultimately related to subtype of fat intake. The adverse effects of TFA from a cardiac standpoint are believed to be the result of inflammatory substances produced from TFA metabolism (cytokines), as well as damage to the lining of blood vessels (endothelial dysfunction) from TFA byproducts. It turns out that inflammatory mediators, the cytokines, are also significantly elevated in depressed patients, along with noted damage to blood vessels-just as seen in patients with cardiovascular disease.
In a recent study published in the March, 2012 issue of Public Health Nutrition [http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8480071&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S1368980011001856 ] researchers examined the role that consumption of fast food and processed food had on development of depression. In a cohort of nearly 9,000 adults in Spain, individuals who routinely ate “fast food” (hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, pizza) were about 40% more likely to develop depression than individuals who consumed minimal to none of these foods. Results of this study also demonstrated that the risk of developing depression was significantly greater with increasing amounts of fast food consumed. In addition, those participants in the study who routinely consumed commercially baked goods including muffins, donuts, and croissants were also at a significant risk of developing depression.
In summary, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and fish is less likely to lead to developing depression. Those who consume processed meats, fried foods, excessive sweets, refined cereals and high fat dairy products have an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and resulting depressive symptoms. Olive oil contains bioactive polyphenols with anti-inflammatory properties which may help repair and stabilize the lining of blood vessels (endothelium), helping to reduce the progression of depressive disorders.
Studies also suggest that those who follow the Mediterranean diet- which places a focus on fruits, vegetables and fish, and limiting meat and dairy products, have lower rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons disease as they age–another medical benefit aside from reducing the incidence of depression.