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NMU 118 – Food and Mood First Meta-analysis Study

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 118 (February 6, 2019)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Food and Mood: Simple Dietary Changes Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Source: Journal Psychosomatic Medicine (February 2019)


Over the years many patients and practitioners have asked me if dietary factors play a role in depression or mood states. There are convincing studies showing that regular endurance exercise can improve mood, feelings of well being and help to prevent depression and improve outcomes for people suffering from depression and anxiety.  Studies also show that certain supplements can enhance the efficacy of drugs used to treat depression and anxiety in a significant number of cases. Although there has been speculation that eating healthier food can improve mood and possibly improve management of depression until now there really hasn’t been any convincing published data to substantiate this assumption or suggestion. We know that drinking alcohol can affect mood, but as for other food and beverage choices, very little evidence has been available on this subject. This brings us to the large meta-analysis review paper published in February 2019 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, whereby researchers analyzed data from 16 eligible studies, involving almost 46,000 subjects.  The study findings showed convincing evidence that simple dietary modifications significantly reduced symptoms of depression, even in people with diagnosed depressive disorder.  More specifically, the study showed that various types of dietary improvement appeared to have equal effects on mental health, with weight-loss, reduction of fat intake, or nutrient-improving diets (higher in fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and less refined sugars and bad fats), all having similar benefits for depressive symptoms.

In basic terms, the researchers recommend eating more nutrient-dense meals that high in fiber and vegetables while cutting back on fast-foods and refined sugars. These simple changes alone appear to be sufficient to avoid the potentially negative psychological effects of a “junk food” diet. Results of this study also found that when dietary interventions were combined with exercise, an even greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced by the study subjects. As well, women seemed to derive an even greater benefit from dietary interventions for symptoms of depression and anxiety. One of the co-authors goes on to state that “our data add to the growing evidence to support lifestyle interventions as an important approach to tackle low mood and depression”. The researchers speculate that improvement in mood linked to dietary modifications may be due to reducing obesity, inflammation, or fatigue – all of which are linked to diet and impact upon mental health. More studies are needed to confirm these results, but it’s safe to conclude that eating a healthier diet and exercising regularly are important modulating factors in the mood.

As I have stated many times, lifestyle medicine is an effective preventive and complementary medicine for many human health problems, and we are seeing more and more evidence that is also true for mood, depression, and anxiety. So, eat smart, live well and I know you’re going to look and feel great. I have included the research paper for this study in the text below.


Joseph Firth, Wolfgang Marx, Sarah Dash, Rebekah Carney, Scott B Teasdale, Marco Solmi, Brendon Stubbs, Felipe B. Schuch, André F. Carvalho, Felice Jacka, Jerome Sarris. The effects of dietary improvement on symptoms of depression and anxietyPsychosomatic Medicine, 2019;  10.1097/PSY.0000000000000673


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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