Background: Depression is a common mental health condition that affects 1 in 8 males each year, especially young adults. Young adulthood offers an opportunity for early dietary interventions, with research suggesting that a Mediterranean diet (MD) could be beneficial in treating depression.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine if an MD can improve depressive symptoms in young males with clinical depression.
Methods: A 12-wk, parallel-group, open-label, randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effect of an MD intervention in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in young males (18-25 y). Befriending therapy was chosen for the control group. Assessments were taken at baseline, week 6, and week 12. MD adherence was measured with the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Score (MEDAS). The primary outcome measure was the Beck Depression Inventory Scale-version II (BDI-II) and secondary outcome was quality of life (QoL).
Results: A total of 72 participants completed the study. After 12 wk, the MEDAS scores were significantly higher in the MD group compared with the befriending group (mean difference: 7.8; 95% CI: 7.23, 8.37; P < 0.001). The mean change in BDI-II score was significantly higher in the MD group compared with the befriending group at week 12 (mean difference: 14.4; 95% CI: 11.41, 17.39; P < 0.001). The mean change in QoL score was also significantly higher in the MD group compared with the befriending group at week 12 (mean difference: 12.7; 95% CI: 7.92, 17.48; P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that compared with befriending, an MD intervention leads to significant increases in MEDAS, decreases in BDI-II score, and increases in QoL scores. These results highlight the important role of nutrition for the treatment of depression and should inform advice given by clinicians to this specific demographic population.The trial was registered with Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (trial ID ACTRN12619001545156) and has also been registered with the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (Universal Trial Number U1111-1242-5215).
Keywords: Mediterranean diet; major depressive disorder; male; quality of life; young adults.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.