Dietary interventions and regular exercise together improve mood and lower depression, according to research findings.
The analysis consisted of nearly 46,000 people and suggests that weight loss, nutrient-boosting, and fat reducing diets can help reduce all types of depression.
Lead researcher Dr. Joseph Firth explained, “The overall evidence for the effects of diet on mood and mental well-being had up to now yet to be assessed. But our recent meta-analysis has done just that; showing that adopting a healthier diet can boost peoples’ mood. However, it has no clear effects on anxiety.”
The study combined data from 16 randomized controlled trials that looked at the effects of dietary interventions on depression and anxiety symptoms.
The study uncovered that all types of dietary improvements appeared to have equal effects on mental health, with weight loss, fat reduction, and nutrient-improving diets all having similar benefits on depression symptoms.
Dr. Firth continued, “This is actually good news. The similar effects from any type of dietary improvement suggest that highly-specific or specialized diets are unnecessary for the average individual. Instead, just making simple changes is equally beneficial for mental health. In particular, eating more nutrient-dense meals which are high in fiber and vegetables, while cutting back on fast-foods and refined sugars appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a ‘junk food’ diet.”
Co-author of the study Dr. Brendon Stubbs added, “Our data add to the growing evidence to support lifestyle interventions as an important approach to tackle low mood and depression. Specifically, our results within this study found that when dietary interventions were combined with exercise, a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced by people. Taken together, our data really highlight the central role of eating a healthier diet and taking regular exercise to act as a viable treatment to help people with low mood.”
Females were found to attain greater benefits from dietary interventions. The researchers are still unclear as to why women benefit greater from this, so additional research is required to develop a better understanding.
Furthermore, additional research is needed to better understand how and why dietary interventions and fat and weight loss improve depression and anxiety. The researchers speculate it may be due to a reduction in inflammation or reduction in fatigue, which can have positive mental health outcomes.
It is always encouraged to eat well and exercise regularly as the benefits continue to grow. This is just added evidence to show how important these two components truly are to healthy living.