A study of 10,000 people found that those who ate these foods most regularly were found to be have a much sunnier outlook on life.
The diet traditionally favoured by natives of countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy is high in unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. It is also low in red meat and dairy products while alcohol, particularly red wine, is encouraged – but in moderation.
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Sunshine food: Regularly consuming, nuts, fish, fruit and vegetables – like those living in warm countries by the Med – can cut the risk of depression by 30 percent
A Mediterranean diet is already thought to improve heart health and stave off cancer.
Dieticians believe it appears to improve the flexibility of cells lining the walls of blood vessels, particularly in the heart and circulatory system.
The latest study was inspired by the lower risk of suffering mental disorders in Mediterranean countries than in Northern Europe.
Dr Almudena Sanchez-Villegas and colleagues studied 10,094 healthy Spanish men and women between 1999 and 2005. For the project, they filled in food diaries and their adherence to a Mediterranean diet was checked on nine main points.
These included frequency of consumption of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products, and low intake of meat. High intakes of fruit, nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish were also important.
The Mediterranean diet is high in unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Wine is encouraged, but in moderation
After more than four years of follow-ups, there were 480 new cases of depression, 156 in men and 324 in women.
Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had a greater than 30 per cent reduction in the risk of depression compared with those who had lowest scores.
The figures did not change even when adjusted for other markers of a healthy lifestyle, such as being married, said a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Dr Sanchez-Villegas admitted: ‘The specific mechanisms by which a better adherence to the Mediterranean diet could help to prevent the occurrence of depression are not well-known.’
However, the diet is known to keep arteries healthy, fight inflammation and repair cell damage, she said.
‘The role of the overall dietary pattern may be more important than the effect of single components,’ added the academic, of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and University of Navarra.
There may be ‘a fair degree of protection’ from the combination of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish with other natural ingredients in olive oil, nuts, fruit and plant foods.
Last year, U.S. researchers found strict adherence to a Mediterranean diet could help stave off Alzheimer’s and premature death.
A team from the UK, Greece and Spain also found it helped prevent the development of asthma and respiratory allergies in children.
Other research shows taking fish oil every day in pregnancy can cut the risk of post-natal depression.
Source: Mail Online.6Th. Oct.2009