Mood foods? New trial aims for nutritional prevention of depression

By David Anderson

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Nutrition

A pan-European trial testing nutrition as a preventative strategy for depression could have ‘huge implications’ for future health policy, says one of the team behind the study.

The EU-backed MooDFOOD project and trial aims to tackle the prevention of depression through nutritional strategies. A current trial is running across the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain – which those involved suggest could make big news once completed.

Speaking to NutraIngredients, Dr Matthew Owens-Solari, one of the trial’s lead researchers, said: “I Imagine it will be fairly high-impact. I think it will make the news.”

“Treatment is important but it’s very expensive. We probably as a world won’t ever have the resources to treat everybody with anxiety and depression,”​ he noted – noting that current recommendations for prevention of depression and anxiety include increasing physical exercise and working out.

“If we can do that through healthy lifestyle and psychological approaches that we are testing that may, if it works out, have huge implications for costs.”

Ongoing trial

The trial, which has completed the recruitment phase, is unusual as it focuses on prevention. As such it is unlike the bulk of trials on depression, which have focused on nutritional interventions like high-dose omega-3 supplements as a potential treatment for those who already have clinical depression.

Its other points of difference are that it is bigger than many previous trials, involving just over 1,000 overweight individuals at risk of depression, and longer than many trials, lasting one year.

The trial will test whether multi-nutrient supplements and/or food-related behaviour change (FBC) – like switching to a diet rich in n vegetables, olive oil, fruit and wholegrain –  are feasible and effective in preventing the development of depression.

A multi-nutrient supplement including vitamin D, calcium, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids from deep sea fish oil and folic acid, is also being tested.

Four intervention groups will be tested: placebo, no FBC; placebo with FBC intervention; multi-nutrient supplement with no FBC intervention; and multi-nutrient supplements with FBC intervention.

The trials and data collection are expected to finish in September this year with the results published early next year.

Results of the trial will be fed into the broader findings from the MooDFOOD project, which has been granted nearly €9 million over five years to investigate how food intake, nutrient status/intake, food-related behaviours and obesity are linked to the development of depression

Prevention is cheaper than treatment

“I would imagine it will catch the imagination because it’s tackling two things,”​ said Owens-Solari. “We are looking at preventing serious clinical depression. And people do have to be overweight to come into the study because of the link between being overweight and developing depression. It captures those two things.”

He added that the trial results could have major impact on the cost of future healthcare and help save money spent on treatment.

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