Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Can Food Help Our Mood?


Recent studies have associated a better diet quality with reduced depression.

By Lesley MacDonald-Wicks

There is substantial interest in the role of nutrition in preventing and treating depression.

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One of the more alarming health statistics in Australia is the rising rate of depression. In 2007, 45% of Australians experienced one of the common mental disorders (CMD), including depression or anxiety. The most alarming aspect of CMDs is an early onset, often in adolescence or early adulthood.

Just as alarming is the rise in overweight and obesity in Australia – currently 60% of the population – and the rapid trajectory of weight gain in young women aged18–35 years. While there appears to be a similar age of onset for both conditions, you have to ask whether there are any other commonalities.

Can Omega-3 Alleviate Depression?

There is increasing interest in the role of nutrition in depression. Studies have looked at the role of individual nutrients in the prevention or treatment of depressive illness. Zinc, magnesium and some of the B group vitamins, in particular folate, have potentially biologically plausible roles in depression, with many studies showing associations between these nutrients and depression. One of the most extensively studied nutrients in relation to CMDs is the omega-3 fats.

Usually we divide omega-3 fats into two categories: alpha- linolenic acid (ALA), which is the essential and shorter chain version, and the long chain (LC) omega-3 fats eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid. ALA is a type of fat found in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.