Effect of the Mediterranean diet on Depression by Prof Michael Berk

Posted on July 16, 2019

Prof Michael Berk is the Alfred Deakin Chair of Psychiatry at Deakin University. He is a past President of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders and the Australasian Society of Bipolar and Depressive Disorders. In addition, he holds several honorary professorial research fellowships. Prof Berk has published over 800 papers and has received several national and international awards, including the Brain and Behaviour Foundation Colvin prize. 

Author Quotes  

In Australia, the average teenager gets 50% of their calories from junk and processed foods. This is a remarkable statistic, and we’re only just beginning to understand the public health implications.

In middle and highincome countries, diet is now the single largest contributor to the burden of disability; quite remarkable.

Independent of each other to some extent; poor quality diet increased your risk of mental health problems, particularly depression, and a good quality diet was protective.

Summary and slides  

Professor Berk begins by describing the huge change in diet over the last few decades, highlighting the dramatic decline in the consumption of fresh green vegetables and the concurrent rise in the consumption of processed and junk foods.  

He remarks that the average Australian teenager gets half of their calories from processed and junk foods and that the public health implications of this are only now beginning to be understood. 

He highlights that diet is now the single largest contributor to disease burden in rich countries and is an associated risk factor for depression. He discusses what constitutes a poor-quality diet. 

Moving on, he talks about the first quality study linking diet and depression, published in 2010, and the large volume of global peer-reviewed studies which have since confirmed the link. Main findings were that a poor-quality diet increases the risk of developing depression whereas a good quality diet is protective.  

In a recent meta-analysis, a traditional Mediterranean diet was associated with an approximately 30% reduction in the risk of depression; Professor Berk flags that these findings are clinically meaningful. 

Finally, he highlights that a low dietary inflammatory index also confers a 30% reduction in the risk of developing depression. 

Take Home Points  

  • A poor-quality diet increases your risk of depression and a good quality diet is protective. 
  • A traditional Mediterranean diet reduces a person’s risk of developing depression by 30%. 
  • A low dietary inflammatory index reduces a person’s risk of developing depression by 30%. 
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