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Med J Aust 2019; 211 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50389
Published online: 4 November 2019

Young adults with depression whose diet is usually unhealthy showed significantly fewer symptoms of depression after eating a healthy diet for 3 weeks, according to a Macquarie University study published by PLoS ONE. The researchers studied 76 university students (aged 17–35 years) exhibiting moderate to high depression symptoms and following a poor diet based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (high in processed foods, sugar and saturated fats). They randomised participants into diet change and regular diet groups. The diet change group received brief instructions on improving their diet, as well as a healthy food hamper and $60 towards future groceries. Each group member also received two subsequent check‐ins via phone call. The regular diet group did not receive any diet instructions and was simply asked to return after the 3 weeks were up. Before and after the intervention, the researchers assessed participants’ scores for depression, anxiety and overall mood, and their performance on several learning and reasoning tasks. At the end of 3 weeks, the diet change group had successfully maintained a healthy diet and showed significant improvement in mood, with depression scores shifting into the normal range. The regular diet group's depression scores remained stable in the moderate to high range. The diet change group also showed significantly lower anxiety scores than the regular diet group, although other measures were not significantly different between the groups. The authors followed up 33 of the participants after 3 months. In this small sample, they found that while only 21% of these participants fully maintained the healthy diet, those who did maintained their improvements in mood.



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