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Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1411320. [Epub ahead of print]

A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED).

Author information

1
a Centre for Population Health Research , University of South Australia , GPO Box 2471, Adelaide , South Australia 5001 , Australia.
2
b Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science , University of South Australia , GPO Box 2471, Adelaide , South Australia 5001 , Australia.
3
c Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering , University of the Sunshine Coast , 90 Sippy Downs, Sippy Downs , Queensland 4556 , Australia.
4
d Discipline of Dietetics and Human Nutrition , La Trobe University , Melbourne , Victoria 3086 , Australia.
5
e Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, Faculty of Health , University of Canberra , Canberra , Australian Capital Territory , Australia.
6
f School of Human Health and Social Sciences , Central Queensland University , 44 Greenhill Road, Wayville , South Australia 5034 , Australia.
7
g School of Medicine , University of Wollongong , Northfields Avenue, Wollongong , NSW 2522 , Australia.
8
h Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine , Royal Adelaide Hospital, University of Adelaide , Level 4, Eleanor Harrald Building, Adelaide 5005 , Australia.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

We investigated whether a Mediterranean-style diet (MedDiet) supplemented with fish oil can improve mental health in adults suffering depression.

METHODS:

Adults with self-reported depression were randomized to receive fortnightly food hampers and MedDiet cooking workshops for 3 months and fish oil supplements for 6 months, or attend social groups fortnightly for 3 months. Assessments at baseline, 3 and 6 months included mental health, quality of life (QoL) and dietary questionnaires, and blood samples for erythrocyte fatty acid analysis.

RESULTS:

n = 152 eligible adults aged 18-65 were recruited (n = 95 completed 3-month and n = 85 completed 6-month assessments). At 3 months, the MedDiet group had a higher MedDiet score (t = 3.95, P < 0.01), consumed more vegetables (t = 3.95, P < 0.01), fruit (t = 2.10, P = 0.04), nuts (t = 2.29, P = 0.02), legumes (t = 2.41, P = 0.02) wholegrains (t = 2.63, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (t = 3.27, P < 0.01); less unhealthy snacks (t = -2.10, P = 0.04) and red meat/chicken (t = -2.13, P = 0.04). The MedDiet group had greater reduction in depression (t = -2.24, P = 0.03) and improved mental health QoL scores (t = 2.10, P = 0.04) at 3 months. Improved diet and mental health were sustained at 6 months. Reduced depression was correlated with an increased MedDiet score (r = -0.298, P = 0.01), nuts (r = -0.264, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (r = -0.303, P = 0.01). Other mental health improvements had similar correlations, most notably for increased vegetable diversity and legumes. There were some correlations between increased omega-3, decreased omega-6 and improved mental health.

DISCUSSION:

This is one of the first randomized controlled trials to show that healthy dietary changes are achievable and, supplemented with fish oil, can improve mental health in people with depression.

KEYWORDS:

Depression; Fish oil; Intervention; Mediterranean diet; Mental health; Omega-3; Omega-6; Quality of life

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