A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED)

Natalie Parletta, Dorota Zarnowiecki, Jihyun Cho, Amy Wilson, Svetlana Bogomolova, Anthony Villani, Catherine Itsiopoulos, Theo Niyonsenga, Sarah Blunden, Barbara Meyer, Leonie Segal, Bernhard T. Baune, Kerin O’Dea

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Objectives: We investigated whether a Mediterranean-style diet (MedDiet) supplemented with fish oil can improve mental health in adults suffering depression. Methods: Adults with self-reported depression were randomized to receive fortnightly food hampers and MedDiet cooking workshops for 3 months and fish oil supplements for 6 months, or attend social groups fortnightly for 3 months. Assessments at baseline, 3 and 6 months included mental health, quality of life (QoL) and dietary questionnaires, and blood samples for erythrocyte fatty acid analysis. Results:n = 152 eligible adults aged 18–65 were recruited (n = 95 completed 3-month and n = 85 completed 6-month assessments). At 3 months, the MedDiet group had a higher MedDiet score (t = 3.95, P <0.01), consumed more vegetables (t = 3.95, P <0.01), fruit (t = 2.10, P = 0.04), nuts (t = 2.29, P = 0.02), legumes (t = 2.41, P = 0.02) wholegrains (t = 2.63, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (t = 3.27, P <0.01); less unhealthy snacks (t = −2.10, P = 0.04) and red meat/chicken (t = −2.13, P = 0.04). The MedDiet group had greater reduction in depression (t = −2.24, P = 0.03) and improved mental health QoL scores (t = 2.10, P = 0.04) at 3 months. Improved diet and mental health were sustained at 6 months. Reduced depression was correlated with an increased MedDiet score (r = −0.298, P = 0.01), nuts (r = −0.264, P = 0.01), and vegetable diversity (r = −0.303, P = 0.01). Other mental health improvements had similar correlations, most notably for increased vegetable diversity and legumes. There were some correlations between increased omega-3, decreased omega-6 and improved mental health. Discussion: This is one of the first randomized controlled trials to show that healthy dietary changes are achievable and, supplemented with fish oil, can improve mental health in people with depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-487
Number of pages14
JournalNutritional Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


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