Food and Mood: An Investigation Into the Association Between Diet Quality and Depressive Symptoms

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Quehl, Rachel
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University of Guelph

Research has suggested that there may be an association between diet and depressive symptoms. This association has not been well examined among emerging adults, who are at increased risk of developing both depression and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Research objectives were to examine the cross-sectional association between depressive symptoms and each of diet quality, fruits and vegetable intake, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, “other foods”, and glycemic index/glycemic load in emerging adult females. One hundred and forty-one female subjects from two undergraduate nutrition courses at the University of Guelph were recruited in Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. Measures of diet (Healthy Eating Index - Canadian Adaptation; HEI-C), depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale; CES-D), and other health behaviours (e.g., physical activity) were collected. Descriptive statistics and age-adjusted linear regressions were performed to test for associations between depressive symptoms and diet. Independent t-tests examined differences in dietary intake between reporters of high vs. low levels of depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms were inversely associated with diet quality (r = 0.21, p = 0.043). There was no association between depressive symptoms and other dietary variables (p > .05). Independent t-tests revealed no differences in dietary variables between reporters of high vs. low depressive symptoms (p > .05). The inverse association between diet quality and depressive symptoms indicates that those with higher levels of depressive symptoms are consuming diets of poorer nutritional quality than those with lower levels of depressive symptoms, but given the cross-sectional nature of this research, the temporal order of this association is not known. The association between diet and depressive symptoms is likely bi-directional, and thus dietary intervention could eventually be used as an adjunctive treatment for depression.

Diet, Depressive symptoms, Dietary quality, Bi-directional, Dietary intervention