Joensuu, Finland—A healthy diet may contribute not only to increased physical health, but also to mental health, according to a study from the University of Eastern Finland.

The extensive study, led by clinical nutritionist Anu Ruusunen, M.Sc., followed the diets and cases of depression of more than 2,000 middle-aged Finnish men over a period of 13–20 years. The data revealed that a healthy diet, which the researchers characterized as a diet of vegetables, fruits, berries, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheese, was associated with a lower risk of depression as well as a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. Increased intake of folate (found in berries, vegetables, meat and liver) and coffee was also associated with a lower risk of depression.

A general reduction in body weight due to lifestyle intervention was also associated with an even greater reduction in depression risk.

In addition, the study found that an unhealthy diet, characterized by the researchers as one high in “sausages, processed meats, sugar-containing desserts and snacks, sugary drinks, manufactured foods, French rolls and baked or processed potatoes,” increased the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the study participants.

Despite information from previous studies, vitamin B12 intake, overall caffeine intake and a habit of drinking tea were not found to be relevant to depression in this study. 


published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2013, online 9/18/13