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October 13, 2009

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Healthy diet may decrease depression risk

Spanish scientists revealed research findings today that suggest a healthy diet lowers risk of suffering from depression.  The research results are aligned with a trend in recent years, associating nutrition with improved mental health.

New York Times article “Nutrition: Lower Depression Risk Linked to Mediterranean Diet” highlights aspects of the Mediterranean diet that are play a role in staving off depression.  Included in the list of essential components of the diet are “fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish.” Scientists emphasize the role that healthy fats play in neurotransmitter funtioning, noting that the membranes of neurons are essentially fat, and thus depend directly on a diet with a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats.

As with all research results, looking at methods with a critical eye is important.  This particular study does not prove a correllation per se, but rather an association between nutrition and lower risk of depression.  It is virtually impossible to create an empirical study that eliminates outside variables.  With this in mind, this study provides yet another association between nutrition and well being, consistent with research being done gloabally.

This article drew my attention for several reasons.  First and foremost, nutrition is a cornerstone at Pacific Quest.  We recognize the importance that diet plays in well being, as we have observed this first hand (with the students and ourselves!).  Secondly, the aspects of the Mediterranean diet noted in the research results is remarkably similar to the diet our naturopath created for PQ students.  In fact, PQ students rely on fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, and fish as a major part of their diet.  They eat olive oil too, however, coconut oil is the primary source of oil – and it is local too!