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Brief change in diet may ease symptoms of depression

October 23, 2019

Depression tends to bring hopelessness, sadness or helplessness. However, some people also experience agitation, including symptoms of anxiety and restlessness.

Agitated depression is not a medical term, but some people use it to describe this combination of anxiety and depression.

Mixed depression, or major depressive disorder with mixed features is another way to describe depression that also involves agitation and physical restlessness.

An earlier study in 2004 found that out of 434 people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder (which can also involve depression), 34.7 percent had symptoms of agitation.

For a diagnosis of depression, a person needs to have experienced low mood or loss of interest or pleasure in life for at least two weeks.

Increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil improves overall physical and mental health. PINTEREST PHOTOS

Also, they will have experienced at least five of these symptoms:

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or irritability nearly every day.

A lack of interest or pleasure in activities almost every day.

Significant weight loss or a change of appetite that results in weight loss or gain of 5 percent of body weight within a month.

Sleeping too much or too little.

Psychomotor agitation.

Restlessness or feelings of having “slowed down.”

Fatigue or lack of energy every day.

Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and unexplained guilt almost every day.

Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or making routine decisions.

Thoughts of of death, self-harm or suicide.

Latest study

In the first study of its type, quoted by the Medical News Today, researchers conclude that even a brief shift in dietary habits can alleviate the symptoms of depression in young adults. The findings offer hope, but more work is needed.

Science has now clearly established the impact of poor diet on overall physical health.

Consuming large amounts of processed and sugary foods increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

More recently, researchers have begun to focus on the impact of healthful or unhealthful eating on mental health.

In fact, as the authors of the latest study explain, diet is now considered a modifiable risk factor for depression.

Although evidence is mounting, most of it is observational. In other words, currently, it is difficult to ascertain whether eating a healthful diet staves off depression or whether experiencing depression drives unhealthful eating habits.

Filling a gap

According to the authors, to date, only one randomized control trial has investigated a dietary intervention on adults with a clinical diagnosis of depression.

The 12-week study concluded that dietary improvement may provide an efficacious and accessible treatment strategy for the management of [major depression].

The latest study, appearing now in Plos One, adds more flesh to the bones.

Findings show that a modest change to diet is a useful adjunct therapy to reduce symptoms of depression.

In this study, the scientists wanted to uncover whether young adults living with depression could benefit from a three-week dietary intervention. At the same time, they were keen to know whether young people with depression would be able to stick to a dietary intervention.

The researchers chose to study young adults because, as they explain, adolescence and young adulthood are a period where there is increased risk of depression, and these are also critical periods for establishing health patterns such as diet which will carry over into adulthood.

To investigate, researchers from Macquarie University in Australia recruited 76 participants between 17 and 35 years of age. All participants were experiencing moderate-to-high symptoms of depression, and their standard diet included high levels of sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods.

The dietary interventions

The scientists split the participants into two groups; the “diet change” group and the “regular diet” group.

The scientists gave the diet change group nutritional advice in the form of a 13-minute video, which they posted online for the student to reference during the study. Members of this group received a small hamper of healthful food and the promise of a $60 gift card if they handed in their shopping receipts at the end of the study.

The diet change group also received two check-in calls during the study, on days 7 and 14. The “regular diet” group, however, received no dietary instructions, free food or gift cards; the research team simply asked them to return after three weeks.

At the beginning and end of the three-week study, all participants went through a battery of tests. The scientists assessed levels of depression, mood and anxiety, and also tested learning and reasoning skills.

As hoped, participants in the experimental group did adhere to the dietary changes. In this diet change group, depression scores improved significantly. Both anxiety and stress scores also improved.

Conversely, the regular diet group experienced no significant changes in depression score.

After three months, the researchers spoke with 33 of the participants over the phone. Although only seven of these individuals were maintaining the healthful eating plan, the improvements in mood were still significant across this small group.

Overall, the authors conclude, “Modifying diet to reduce processed food intake and increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil improved depression symptoms in young adults. These findings add to a growing literature showing a modest change to diet is a useful adjunct therapy to reduce symptoms of depression.”

Limitations and challenges

Although the current findings add to the evidence that food plays a role in mental health, the study does have significant limitations.

First and foremost, the study only recruited a small number of participants; and these were exclusively young adults that were attending the university, so the findings might not apply to other demographics.

Importantly, individuals in the regular diet group received no guidance, no free food, and no cash incentive; this is a considerable issue. Future studies may want to attempt to match the two conditions more closely. For instance, both groups could receive the same financial reward and check-in calls.

As for the three-month follow-up, the research team conducted this over the telephone with just 33 participants, so it is difficult to extrapolate the findings further.

Because the relationship between nutrition and mental health is a hot topic, other researchers are likely to publish similar studies thick and fast. Both nutrition and mental health are challenging to investigate alone, so examining the interaction between the two is more difficult still.

Developing a clear picture of the role of diet in psychological well-being is complex indeed. With that said, the links between eating well and mental health are already growing stronger.

Source: Medical News Today, “Most Popular (Free) Health News Articles for 2019” – 20 August 2019 and 10 October 2019.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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