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Eating well, a weapon against depression too?

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A comprehensive article published in The Lancet’s journal, EbioMedicine, analyzes current knowledge on the relationship between nutrition and some psychiatric disorders, particularly depression.

What are the key messages of the article?

From the article, it was found how important it is to follow the Mediterranean diet, because in addition to the already known positive effects on cardiovascular health and cognitiveness, it can help reduce the risk of onset of depressive disorders. On the other hand, the possible negative effects on mental health of so-called“junk foods,” i.e., foods high in simple sugars, i.e., fast-absorbing, are already known. In addition, depression, in reducing appetite, can promote a state of malnutrition, which, in turn, negatively affects mood. Other key messages for dietary supplements emerge from the article. At present, only a few molecules have shown clinically relevant results. These molecules are:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Adenosyl methionine
  • Methylfolate
  • Vitamin D

In any case, many of these dietary supplements are routinely prescribed by physicians as an adjunct to drug therapy for depression.

The importance of gut flora

There also emerges a focus on the gut microbiota, that is, the flora consisting of the millions of bacteria living in the human gut. In fact, according to some studies, the composition of the microbiota would also affect mental health. Unfortunately, the balance of gut microflora can be altered by antibiotic treatment, physical and mental stress, and consumption of unhealthy foods. In cases of alterations in the intestinal ecosystem, the use of “probiotics,” or live bacterial strains that can colonize the intestine and restore its balance, is now well established.

In conclusion, the relationship between diet, dietary supplements and depression is certainly a fascinating and promising topic. Research, however, still has many steps to go before specific interventions can be suggested. To date, we can say that to prevent or counteract mood disorders, it is essential to have a
proper diet
in the context of a healthy lifestyle characterized by the right amount of physical activity and respect for sleep hygiene.

In collaboration with Dr. Piercarlo Salari

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