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New Research: Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Reduced Risk of Late-Life Depression

  • May 18, 2019

San Francisco – Maintaining a Mediterranean-type diet may protect against symptoms of depression in later life, according to new research presented here at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting.

Adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet has long been recognized as being good for physical health and has been associated with longer life and reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. It may also have protective effects against cognitive decline in older individuals. A Mediterranean-style diet generally emphasizes eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, using olive oil, eating dairy products, fish and poultry in moderation, and limiting red meat and sweets. It also emphasizes getting plenty of exercise and enjoying meals with family and friends.

Researchers from Hellenic Open University, Greece, led by Konstantinos Argyropoulos, M.D., Ph.D., conducted a cross-sectional study among the members of day-care centers for older people, in East-Attica, Greece. Among all participants, 64% reported medium adherence to the Mediterranean diet and 34% showed high adherence. Nearly one-quarter screened positive for depressive symptoms. Depression was more common in women than in men.

Argyropoulos and colleagues found a diet higher in vegetables and lower in poultry and alcohol was associated with decreased likelihood of developing symptoms of depression or a diagnosis of depression later in life. “Our results support that depression in older adults is common and strongly associated with several risk factors,” the authors conclude. “Adherence to a Mediterranean diet may protect against the development of depressive symptoms in older age."

The study does not prove cause and effect, the authors note, and could potentially reflect that people with depression have more difficulty maintaining healthy diets, exercise and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

The study’s lead author, Argyropoulos, is a practicing psychiatrist and psychotherapist, a member of the academic staff of Hellenic Open University and a research fellow at the University of Patras School of Medicine, Greece. Collaborators on the study include E. Machini, A. Argyropoulou, D. Avramidis, E. Jelastopulu, all participating in the postgraduate program “Aging and Chronic Diseases Management,” a joint program of the School of Medicine, University of Thessaly and Hellenic Open University in Greece.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,500 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit


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