Can a vegan diet reduce the risk of depression?
Studies have shown that a mostly plant-based Mediterranean diet can help to prevent depression, according to a review of 41 studies on the topic published in the September 2018 edition of the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The Mediterranean diet, named for the eating habits in Greece and Italy in the 1960s, has a strong emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. It also traditionally includes moderate amounts of fish and dairy products. But, it may be more beneficial to leave out the latter two.
Although the review does mention fish, it notes that plant-based foods such as grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are beneficial in reducing the risk of depression. Too much meat and dairy, it specifies, should be avoided.
The review of the studies was conducted at the University College London, and led by Dr. Camille Lasalle. Speaking to New Food Magazine, Lasalle explained, “There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health.”
She continued, “There is also emerging evidence that shows that the relationship between the gut and brain plays a key role in mental health and that this axis is modulated by gastrointestinal bacteria, which can be modified by our diet.”
Although some experts are skeptical and believe more research on the subject is required, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the review’s conclusion. Earlier this year, a study conducted at Rush University Medical Center found that older people were less likely to suffer from depression if their diet was filled with plant-based fresh foods, and not processed foods and animal products.
The study’s author, Dr. Laurel Cherian, who is also a vascular neurologist, noted that “there is evidence linking healthy lifestyle changes to lower rates of depression and this study sought to examine the role that diet plays in preventing depression.”
Depression is not the only disease a plant-based diet can lower the risk of; in the past, studies have also noted it can decrease the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and a number of types of cancer.
In Australia, a bowel cancer charity has launched a plant-based meat-free challenge, noting that the consumption of red meat and processed meats can increase the risk of the disease. The initiative asks consumers to ditch meat for one week in the hope that this will influence them to make more healthy plant-based dietary choices for the rest of the year.
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