Background: Depression is supposed to be associated with an unhealthy lifestyle including poor diet. The objective of this study was to investigate differences in diet quality between patients with a clinical diagnosis of depression and population-based controls. Additionally, we aimed to examine effects of specific depression characteristics on diet by analyzing if diet quality varies between patients with distinct depression subtypes, and if depression severity is associated with diet quality.
Methods: The study included 1660 participants from the BiDirect Study (n = 840 patients with depression, n = 820 population-based controls). The psychiatric assessment was based on clinical interviews and a combination of depression scales in order to provide the classification of depression subtypes and severity. Diet quality scores, reflecting the adherence to a healthy dietary pattern, were calculated on the basis of an 18-item food frequency questionnaire. Using analysis of covariance, we calculated adjusted means of diet quality scores and tested differences between groups (adjusted for socio-demographic, lifestyle-, and health-related factors).
Results: We found no differences in diet quality between controls and patients with depression if depression was considered as one entity. However, we did find differences between patients with distinct subtypes of depression. Patients with melancholic depression reported the highest diet quality scores, whereas patients with atypical depression reported the lowest scores. Depression severity was not associated with diet quality.
Conclusions: Previous literature has commonly treated depression as a homogeneous entity. However, subtypes of depression may be associated with diet quality in different ways. Further studies are needed to enlighten the diet-depression relationship and the role of distinct depression subtypes.