Possible relation between consumption of different food groups and depression

BMC Psychol. 2019 Mar 6;7(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s40359-019-0292-1.


Background: Diverse studies have investigated the relationship between diet and depression. In fact some cross-sectional studies suggested that a healthy diet reduced the risk for depression. The main objective of this study was to assess the relationship of consumption of different food groups with depression. The food groups were selected based on their content of substances that were precursors to neurotransmitters (tryptophan or inositol) or their effect on oxidative stress.

Methods: This observational retrospective study compared the diets of individuals who were with depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory Questionnaire [BDI] ≥ 10; 53 women, 23 men, age 38+/- 11) and with no depressive levels (BDI < 10; 33 women, 23 men, age 41+/- 13). Dietary data were collected from a questionnaire that asked about consumption of legumes, nuts, whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and sweet foods and refined sugars.

Results: Depressed individuals consumed significantly lower amounts of legumes, fruits, and vegetables, but higher amounts of sweets and refined sugars (p < 0.05 for all comparisons). After statistical adjustment for age and sex, the consumption of no legumes (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.60, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.19-5.67), low consumption of fruits and vegetables (aOR = 2.69, 95% CI = 1.18-6.13), and high consumption of sweet foods and refined sugars (aOR = 1.91, 95% CI = 1.23-2.99) were significantly associated with depression. The two groups had no significant differences in the consumption of chocolate.

Discussion: The results indicate significant relationships of the consumption of certain foods with depression, although the study design precludes any conclusions regarding causality. Further studies are necessary to determine the causal relationships of the consumption of specific foods with depression, and of depression with the consumption of specific foods.

Conclusion: In spite of the limitations, we find that individuals without depression consumed more legumes, fruits, and vegetables, but fewer sweets and pastries than those with depression.

Keywords: Depression; Food; Oxidative stress; Precursors to neurotransmitters.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables