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Psychosom Med. 2019 Apr;81(3):265-280. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000673.

The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

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From the NICM Health Research Institute (Firth, Sarris), Western Sydney University, Westmead, New South Wales, Australia; Division of Psychology and Mental Health (Firth, Carney), Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom; Deakin University (Marx, Dash, Jacka), Food & Mood Centre, IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia; Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (Dash), Metabolic and Vascular Physiology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Youth Mental Health Research Unit (Carney), Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, United Kingdom; School of Psychiatry (Teasdale), Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Keeping the Body in Mind Program (Teasdale), South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Neurosciences Department (Solmi), University of Padua, Padua, Italy; Padua University Hospital (Solmi), Psychiatry Unit, Padua, Italy; Physiotherapy Department (Stubbs), South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom; Department of Psychological Medicine (Stubbs), Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, United Kingdom; Post Graduate Program in Health and Human Development (Schuch), La Salle University, Canoas, Brazil; Hospital de ClĂ­nicas de Porto Alegre (Schuch), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Department of Psychiatry (Carvalho), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)(Carvalho), Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Black Dog Institute (Jacka), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (Jacka), Centre for Adolescent Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; and Department of Psychiatry (Sarris), University of Melbourne, Professorial Unit, The Melbourne Clinic, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Poor diet can be detrimental to mental health. However, the overall evidence for the effects of dietary interventions on mood and mental well-being has yet to be assessed. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis examining effects of dietary interventions on symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Major electronic databases were searched through March 2018 for all randomized controlled trials of dietary interventions reporting changes in symptoms of depression and/or anxiety in clinical and nonclinical populations. Random-effects meta-analyses were conducted to determine effect sizes (Hedges' g with 95% confidence intervals [CI]) for dietary interventions compared with control conditions. Potential sources of heterogeneity were explored using subgroups and meta-regression analyses.


Sixteen eligible randomized controlled trials (published in English) with outcome data for 45,826 participants were included; the majority of which examined samples with nonclinical depression (n = 15 studies). Nonetheless, dietary interventions significantly reduced depressive symptoms (g = 0.275, 95% CI = 0.10 to 0.45, p = .002). Similar effects were observed among high-quality trials (g = 0.321, 95% CI = 0.12 to 0.53, p = .002) and when compared with both inactive (g = 0.308, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.60, p = .038) and active controls (g = 0.174, 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.34, p = .035). No effect of dietary interventions was observed for anxiety (k = 11, n = 2270, g = 0.100, 95% CI = -0.04 to 0.24, p = .148). Studies with female samples observed significantly greater benefits from dietary interventions, for symptoms of both depression and anxiety.


Dietary interventions hold promise as a novel intervention for reducing symptoms of depression across the population. Future research is required to determine the specific components of dietary interventions that improve mental health, explore underlying mechanisms, and establish effective schemes for delivering these interventions in clinical and public health settings.


PROSPERO Online Protocol: CRD42018091256.

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