Fact or Myth: Are Diet and Depression Linked?

This is a FACT.

Studies have shown that depression is influenced by a number of factors: psychosocial stressors, poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, leaky gut, smoking, dental disease, lack of sleep, and certain vitamin deficiencies. What you eat can both exacerbate depression and instigate a chronic disease that causes depression. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, for instance, have been linked to symptoms such as high anxiety and depression. A 2011 study published in Public Health Nutrition showed that people who ate a diet high in baked goods and fast food had a 51% increased likelihood of developing depression. And several studies have tied coffee consumption to elevated anxiety and depression. Let’s take a look at some of the most common dietary culprits.

Depression linked to forgetfulnessDiet and Depression

Studies confirm a positive association between healthy fatty acids like omega-3s and a decreased risk for depression. In 2004, Finnish researchers found that women who ate less fish had a higher risk for depression. Scientists hypothesize that the omega-3s in fish like salmon and tuna help decrease depression both by fighting inflammation and regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, a feel-good hormone that helps transmits signals between nerve cells. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that people who didn’t eat much fat had a 25% increased risk for depression compared to people who ate healthy fats from dietary sources such as salmon, tuna, flaxseeds, and walnuts (all high in omega-3).

Other nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D are equally important to keeping the brain healthy and your moods stable, and eating a diet high in processed foods can deplete the brain and body of these vital nutrients. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that diets rich in whole foods such as vegetables, fish, and fruits decreased the risk of depression after 5 years compared to diets high in sweetened desserts, fried foods, and processed meats and grains, which increased depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry reported on a study that showed how a diet high in processed meats and processed grains increased the risk of depression by as much as one-third!

Dr. Carolyn Dean, an author and medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association, explains: “We know that nutrients such as magnesium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin B6 and B12 help create neurotransmitters, and we are also learning that a deficiency in these nutrients can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

To help prevent and combat depression experts recommend you eat a diet of whole foods, rich in omega-3s, magnesium, and B vitamins, soak up some sun rays for vitamin D, and get an adequate amount of sleep and exercise.