Switching to a healthy diet can ease depression in just three weeks, study finds

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Switching to a healthy diet may help pull people from the depths of depression in less than a month, a study has found.

Researchers looked at 76 depressed university students whose daily meals were mostly made up of processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats.

They found that giving them more fruit, vegetables, fish, and lean meat triggered significant improvements in their mood after just three weeks.

Experts say foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and lowers inflammation and 'internal stress' associated with depression. 

The research by, Macquarie University in Australia, is the latest in a wealth of studies linking a good diet with improved mental health.

Switching to a healthy diet may pull young adults from the depths of depression in less than a month (stock)

Switching to a healthy diet may pull young adults from the depths of depression in less than a month (stock)

However, it is one of only few to directly examine the link using a randomised control, considered the most reliable type of study. 

Dr Heather Francis and colleagues looked at 76 university students, all of whom were aged between 17 and 35. 

At the start of the study, all volunteers filled out detailed questionnaires about their mood and food intake.

They all scored seven or higher on the depression, anxiety and stress scale - a sign of severe depression.

Volunteers also all consumed high amounts of refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and sugar.

The researchers then randomly split participants into two groups – 'diet change' and 'regular diet'. 

Both groups of participants were still taking their antidepressants throughout the study. 

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?

While it is normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression may feel persistently unhappy for weeks or months on end.

Depression can affect anyone at any age and is fairly common – approximately one in ten people are likely to experience it at some point in their life. 

Depression is a genuine health condition which people cannot just ignore or 'snap out of it'.

Symptoms and effects vary, but can include constantly feeling upset or hopeless, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy.

It can also cause physical symptoms such as problems sleeping, tiredness, having a low appetite or sex drive, and even feeling physical pain.

In extreme cases it can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Traumatic events can trigger it, and people with a family history may be more at risk.

It is important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know has depression, as it can be managed with lifestyle changes, therapy or medication. 

Source: NHS Choices 

Those in the diet change group were told to eat five servings of vegetables and two or three pieces of fruit each day.

They were also told to consume three servings of wholegrain cereals, three portions of lean meat, eggs, tofu or legumes, as well as two tablespoons of olive oil and one teaspoon of turmeric or cinnamon per day.

The same volunteers were instructed to slash their refined carbohydrate, sugar, fat and processed food intake.

Researchers gave them a hamper filled with essential foods and £33 each week for their grocery shopping.

The regular diet group were told to continue eating as they normally would and were given no advice on diet.

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