Depression is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and young adults are particularly susceptible. In fact, research shows that depression affects 1 in 8 males each year, with young adulthood presenting an opportunity for early dietary interventions. A clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that a Mediterranean diet (MD) could be beneficial in treating depression in young males.
The study was a 12-week, parallel-group, open-label, randomized controlled trial that assessed the effect of an MD intervention in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in young males aged between 18-25 years. The study compared an MD intervention with befriending therapy for the control group. The study assessed participants at baseline, week 6, and week 12, with adherence to the MD, measured using the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Score (MEDAS). The primary outcome measure was the Beck Depression Inventory Scale-version II (BDI-II), and the secondary outcome was quality of life (QoL).
After 12 weeks, the group that followed the Mediterranean diet had significantly higher scores on the MEDAS scale compared to the group that received befriending therapy, with an average difference of 7.8. The group following the Mediterranean diet also had a significantly greater reduction in Beck Depression scores compared to the befriending group, with an average difference of 14.4. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet group had a significantly greater improvement in quality of life scores compared to the befriending group, with an average difference of 12.7.
These results demonstrate that compared to befriending, an MD intervention leads to significant increases in MEDAS, decreases in BDI-II score, and increases in QoL scores. The findings of this study highlight the important role of nutrition in the treatment of depression, and clinicians should consider recommending dietary interventions to young male patients with clinical depression.