Food and Mood: Role of a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet in Depression

Presenter: Cosette Yu

Research Category: Health Sciences
Student Type: null
Additional Authors: Kelsey Turner, Li-Shiuan Lin
PI: Cosette Yu
Faculty Advisor: Gregory Miller

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious mood disorder that can affect how people think and feel and can negatively impact quality of life. It is the leading cause of disability in adults and affects about 16 million Americans in any given year. There is no well-understood cause of depression; current theories include monoamine imbalance, inflammatory processes, and free-radical oxidative stress. The available pharmacological treatments for MDD including SSRIs, SNRIs, mirtazapine, and bupropion only target monoamine imbalance, yet still result in many adverse side effects. Therefore, there is a need for the development of more tolerable management strategies. As pharmacists, we are the interface between medicine and the community, and we aim to communicate our knowledge to promote community health. Our review of information on the impact of nutrition on MDD reveals that adoption of whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) diets can be beneficial for the management of depression. Phytonutrients in many fruits and vegetables have been found to act like monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Lycopene, present in red-colored fruit, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Green leafy vegetables contain folate which also has antioxidant properties. Consumption of a healthy, balanced diet incorporating these food groups has been found to be associated with reduced odds of having a major depressive episode. Accordingly, WFPB diets show potential for use in the management of mild depression and may also be beneficial as adjunct therapy in combination with pharmacological and psychiatric therapies in moderate to severe depression.