5:30 AM - 8:00 PM (M-F)
7:00 AM - 3:30 PM (S/S)

Can Diet Lower Your Risk for Depression?

written by Natasha Tracy - Aug 13, 2018

Can Diet Lower Your Risk for Depression?

The risk of depression in North America is relatively high with a lifetime risk of experiencing major depression at approximately 30% (although estimates do vary widely). As of 2015, at any given time, 16.1 million adults in the United States have experienced depression in the last year. The risk of depression is higher for women and for adults age 40-59, but is there are way to mitigate these depression risks? Is it possible that diet can actually lower your risk of depression?

Diet and Depression

While diet has been thought to affect major depressive disorder for years, the actual relationship between diet and depression is not well understood and research on this relationship is relatively new. Diets such as the traditional Western diet and Mediterranean diet have been studied to look for links. Additional modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical inactivity also have been studied.

The Diet of Those with Depression

Some conflicting evidence exists, but overall, those with major depressive disorder do tend to have less healthy diets that contain greater amounts of processed foods and fewer whole foods. It is possible that this less healthy diet worsens the depression the person is facing.

Diets that Lower Your Risk of Depression

Specific traditional, cultural diets such as that of the Norwegians or that of the Japanese have limited or even conflicting evidence on their ability to lower the risk of depression. In all, no specific diet has shown to significantly reduce one’s risk of depression.

However, there is some conflicting evidence, but overall, a more generally healthy, “high-quality” diet is considered to lower one’s risk of depression. A healthy diet typically contains:

• Fruits

• Vegetables

• Lean meats

• Whole grains

• Dietary fiber

• Whole foods

• Few processed foods

Lowering Your Risk of Depression with Specific Nutrients or Foods

It is difficult to unequivocally say what specific foods or nutrients contribute to the risk of depression as people who consume certain elements also tend to prefer certain diets overall, introducing confounding factors. For this reason, while certain foods and nutrients and their relationship to depression have been studied, it may be other factors of the diet that are assisting in the lowered risk.

That said, studies have shown that adding these items to your diet on a consistent basis may decrease your risk of depression:

• Zinc

• Magnesium

B-group vitamins

• Unsaturated fats (such as olive oil)

• Seafood/fish

• Omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids

Additionally, one review showed a relationship between probiotic and prebiotic intake and a lessening of depression symptoms. According to the review:

“Mood was improved by enhancing diet quality. Fructooligosaccharide and galactooligosaccharide improved anxiety and depression in participants consuming ≥ 5 g/day.”

Diets Lowering Depression Risk in Children and Adolescents

Given that the average age of mood disorder onset is 13 years old, early interventions that can impact the risk of depression in children and adolescents are critical.

It may be the case that children and adolescents are more sensitive to the association between diet and depression risk as some studies have shown a relationship between a healthy diet and better mental health and the majority of conducted studies have shown the relationship between unhealthy diets and worse mental health (increased levels of depression and anxiety) in children and adolescents.

It has been shown that dietary folate, zinc and magnesium lower the risk of depression. An unhealthy diet often doesn’t contain enough of these nutrients and this may explain why an unhealthy diet in children and adolescents increases their risk of depression.

It appears that focusing on a diet with whole, nutrient-rich foods is important to the mental health of youth.

Why Such Limited Evidence for Diet Lowering Your Risk of Depression?

There just isn’t enough high-quality evidence to make sweeping statements about diet and depression. While it makes sense intuitively that “you are what you eat” and, so, what you eat must impact your mental health, this association just hasn’t been made clear through studies. In fact, in every case, there is limited evidence or conflicting evidence that a specific diet reduces the risk of depression. More research is clearly needed to elucidate this relationship and further aid in the understanding of depression and in the way people handle their own risks of depression.


Halverson, Jerry L MD et al, Depression. Medscape. May 21, 2018.

Kessler, Ronald C. et al, “Twelve‐Month and Lifetime Prevalence and Lifetime Morbid Risk of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in the United States”. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatry Research. August 1, 2012.

O’Neil, Adrienne et al, “Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review”. American Journal of Public Health. October 2014.

Quirk, Shae E et al, “The Association Between Diet Quality, Dietary Patterns and Depression in Adults: A Systematic Review”. BioMed Central Psychiatry. June 27, 2013.

Taylor, AM, Holscher, HD. “A Review of Dietary and Microbial Connections to Depression, Anxiety, and Stress.” Nutritional Neuroscience. July 2018.



Leave your comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

Enter Code:
not case-sensitive

Canadian Pharmacy Online provides information and news on a variety of health-related topics. The details we provide are not meant to indicate proper treatment, medical advice, or diagnosis. While we stand behind our research and writing, our content is not intended to be a substitute for individual medical attention from your physician or veterinarian. Use the information provided to increase your health-related awareness and always bring your questions or concerns to your doctor or vet for a proper diagnosis. Never delay seeking the proper medical attention because of something you may have read on this website or any other health-related blog.
Prescriptions Dispensed from Canada are Dispensed by: Candrug Pharmacy, ID#18985 604-543-8711. Pharmacy Manager: Carol Hou. This pharmacy is duly licensed in the province of British Columbia, Canada by the College of Pharmacists of BC. If you have any questions or concerns you can contact the college at: 200-1765 West 8th Ave Vancouver, BC V6J 5C6 Canada. All prices are in US dollars.
© Copyright 2006 - 2024 Canada Pharmacy Online. All Rights Reserved.