– Did you know that a healthy diet is associated with a 30%
reduction in depression and a 40% improvement in your thinking? That’s what I’m talking about today. I’m Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychiatrist, and I make mental health education videos. There’s been a growing body of research showing an association between diet, inflammation, and depression. Recently, two Australian studies showed that eating a
Mediterranean-style diet actually improved depression symptoms. Now, that’s only two studies
so we do have a ways to go before we get to the point
where we can rely on this as an official protocol,
but even with what we have the results are consistent enough to recommend this as an
intervention for depression. The way they did the study was they took two groups of people with depression, one group got social
support counseling sessions and the other group was
given dietary counseling with a dietitian. This counseling included
teaching mindful eating. The social support group was not the same as supportive psychotherapy, it was doing activities like
playing cards or board games, or talking about sports or books. And, talking about sports
or books is not therapy. What they found was after 12 weeks the diet group showed
significant improvement in their depression symptoms as measured by depression scales. And, scales are questionnaires that are used in research to
measure the degree of illness and put it in quantitative terms. So, this was exciting to see that not only can a healthy diet help
prevent depression, but it can also change the course of someone’s active depression. Let’s take a look at the diet. It’s a modified Mediterranean diet called the Medimod diet. You don’t count calories
or keep up with points. Instead, you eat brain-healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, beans, fish, and extra virgin olive oil. The next thing that they did was to reduce or eliminate foods that
are bad for the brain like refined cereals,
fried and sugary foods, processed foods, and refined
flour like white bread. What are processed foods? These would be things like deli meats, crackers, cookies, and chips. And, you wanna eat foods as close to their original
state as possible. Foods close to their original state are what we refer to as whole foods. If you can’t tolerate gluten, you can still follow the diet, but eat non-gluten-containing grains. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. So, non-gluten-containing whole grains are buckwheat, oats, millet. Whole wheat is the most common, but variety is important so you wanna try some of the other grains. Whole grain options for rice
are brown and black rice. Other whole grains are
couscous and quinoa. For pasta and bread, you wanna look for 100% whole wheat or whole grain. What makes this work? We know that inflammation
contributes to depression. Healthy diets are anti-inflammatory and are rich in B vitamins and folate, which is important for brain function. These nutrients improve neuroplasticity, which improves depression. I did a video on
neuroplasticity and depression. You can see it in the corner, and I’ll link to it in the description. But, in short, neuroplasticity refers to the connections between the neurons. Tight connections are good because that’s what the nerves need to be able to communicate with each other. Loose connections are bad because it makes it harder for the nerves to transfer information between the cells. The author of one of the two studies did another study showing
that it only takes five days for high-fat
and high-sugar diets to impair memory function
in the hippocampus. For example, brain-derived
neurotropic factor levels rise with a healthy diet. We see a similar effect
with antidepressants and aerobic exercise. So, that’s how we think
diet affects your brain in a positive and a negative way. How long does this take to work? Well, in these studies they
didn’t retest the people until three months later so we don’t know if the people started to
feel better sooner than that. But, there have been other studies using the Mediterranean diet, and some of these studies show that your gut microbiome changes in just two to three weeks. And, what kind of bacteria
you have in your gut dictates the health of your gut. And, the health of your gut influences the health of your whole body, including your brain. What we don’t know is the lag time between the improved gut
bacteria and improved mood. Even if you don’t have depression, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a decreased risk of
stroke and heart attacks, and you may need to adjust
it to your special needs, for instance, if you’re lactose intolerant or you need to have a low protein diet because of kidney disease. But, I think the best part of this diet that works no matter how
you need to modify it is the reduction in the
processed food and the sugar. Whether you eat paleo or keto, eating whole foods can
make a world of difference. I’ve included a handout
of the recommendations and the food list that you
can download from my website, and the link is in the description. If you’re a part of my email community, you already have the
worksheets in your email inbox. I’m really interested
in improving gut health so I plan to give this a serious try for at least two weeks. I’ll post on my community tab how it went. Subscribe to my channel so you can keep up on the latest in mental health education. See you next time.