Can a healthy diet treat depression?

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A world-first trial to test if a healthy diet can improve the mental health of people with depression is being conducted by Deakin University researchers.

With depression predicted to become the second-most common cause of disability in the world by 2020, there is an urgent need to look at new ways of treating this illness, said Associate Professor Felice Jacka, who is leading the study.

“While there is now compelling new evidence to suggest that diet plays an important role in the risk of developing depression, there is no existing information on the impact of an improved diet on existing depressive illness. Through this study we want to answer the critically important and frequently asked question ‘If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?’” Associate Professor Jacka said.

The research team from Deakin’s School of Medicine is now calling on people in Melbourne aged over 18 years with major depression to sign on for the trial which is funded for three years by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The trial will involve taking part in either a three month diet program or social support program. Each program comprises seven 45—60 minute sessions at the research base in Collingwood. In the near future, the trial will also commence at Barwon Health in Geelong.

This trial builds on previous research that has looked at the connection between diet and mental health, including previous studies by Associate Professor Jacka.

“I have been involved in five large-scale studies that have examined the connection between aspects of diet and mental health. The results of these studies have linked a healthy diet with a reduced likelihood of having depression,” she said.

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“It is now time to test whether improving someone’s diet makes them feel better if they are already depressed.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the trial can call 03 8415 0944 or email

Source: Deakin University

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Date Created: November 2, 2012