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 Foods That Fight Depression

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PostSubject: Foods That Fight Depression   Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:59 am

http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/foods-that-fight-depression.aspx?xid=nl_EverydayHealthEmotionalHealth_20090813

Foods That Fight Depression
People who live in Scandinavian and Asian countries have low rates of depression. Is it because of the foods they eat?
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH Print Email
Are there depression-fighting foods? A growing body of research says yes.

Investigators at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., found evidence that cold-water fish, walnuts, and sugar beets may be beneficial foods for depression. The possibility that the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, tuna, canola oil, and walnuts can help fight depression has been supported by several clinical studies. This may explain why Scandinavian and Asian countries with diets high in fish have low rates of depression.

The researchers at McLean also found that uridine had positive effects; this substance is found in sugar beets and molasses, which may make them good foods for depression. When omega-3 fatty acids and uridine were used together, they were effective for depression in lower doses.

Japanese researchers found that a diet high in fish protects people from depression and suicide, while in Finland a team of researchers surveyed 1,767 residents and concluded that eating fish more than twice a week has a protective effect against suicide and depression.

Foods for Depression: What's the Evidence?

How these foods fight depression is not known. Researchers think that they may change some fats in brain membranes, making it easier for brain chemicals to pass through. The study done at McLean used laboratory rats, and the researchers caution that the metabolism of rats and humans is quite different.

Kathleen Franco, MD, professor of medicine and psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine in Ohio, believes that diet and supplements, along with medication and psychotherapy, have a role in depression treatment. "It is recommended that individuals eat a healthy diet [including] fruits and vegetables with antioxidants; omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and some other fish; and vitamins that include all the B's," says Dr. Franco.

Others are less convinced about the role of supplements and foods for depression. "Dietary supplements such as St. John's wort and others have less consistent support in research studies and thus may not be effective for depression,” says Richard Shadick, PhD, adjunct professor of psychology and director of the Pace University Counseling Center in New York City. “However, one way of controlling your diet that can improve your mood is limiting alcohol."

Foods for Depression: Other Possible Foods

Omega-3 fatty acids are not the only foods for depression that have been studied. Some other foods or dietary supplements that may affect depression include:

B vitamins. Studies suggest that if you have low levels of the B vitamin folic acid and high levels of a protein called homocysteine, you are more likely to be depressed. Folic acid, vitamin B2, B6, and B12 have all been shown to decrease levels of homocysteine. You can get B vitamins by eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Amino acids. Tryptophan is an important amino acid that you need to make the brain chemical serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are believed to be a cause of depression. Several studies have shown that a diet high in tryptophan can improve depression. You can get tryptophan in your diet from foods high in protein like meat, fish, beans, and eggs. Carbohydrates. All the carbohydrates you eat are broken down into sugar that your brain needs to function properly. However, eating too much sugar can cause peaks and valleys in your blood glucose levels that can cause or aggravate symptoms of depression. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to eat a diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugar and high in fruits and vegetables. St. John's wort. This plant has been used as a dietary supplement to treat depression. Although there has been some evidence that St. John's wort has been useful in treating mild depression, two recent studies found that it was no more effective than a placebo for treating major depression. Most of the evidence on foods for depression is not strong enough yet to say that they can cure depression, but active research continues. For now, most doctors agree that a depression diet, whether from food or dietary supplements, is not a substitute for proper medical care.

"Psychotherapy and medication are the most effective means of combating depression. It should be noted that for all forms of depression, it is important to see a mental health professional to determine the best treatment," advises Shadick.
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