Diet and Depression
Hey, it’s Mike here and today, we’re going to look at diet and depression. if you’re in the northern hemisphere like me, winter is coming, and that means depression season is coming; so let’s replace the Sun with the dopamine burst we get from learning! So you’re going to learn about the research on how particular foods affect depression, and also look at a few interventionary trials where people were put on a certain diet and see how they fared emotionally. To start, according to the CDC, one in eight people over the age of 12 in the US take antidepressants And it goes all the way up to one in four in women over 60. And since we can’t always see depression, I would consider this a silent epidemic, so we need to search for answers, and the role of diet seems pretty promising. Quick disclaimer, diet is not a fix-all for being sad, and that depression can be an appropriate response to things that happen in your life. We’re not looking at that We’re looking at an ongoing chemical imbalance type of depression, and any answers we can get to combat that. So let’s let’s go ahead and start on a positive note, and see what foods can make you happier, possibly. This study found that eating fruit at least three times a week was associated with a 34% lower odds of depression than those who did not eat that much fruit. And for veggies, that meant a 62% lowered odds of depression. Which pretty amazing, and yes, they did control for other things that can make you sad like socioeconomic status and looking to other studies, they find the same thing veggies equal happiness. Now, I’m always trying to pressure people to eat Whole Foods and from this study, the more Whole Foods you ate, the lower your depression was. Those who ate the most Whole Foods had about 25% lower depression and those who at the least, had 58% higher depression than baseline. Now I want to be transparent, fish was lumped in with those whole foods such as veggies and fruit. But, as we will soon see, it may have skewed the data for the worst; may have diminished those positive effects of fruit and veggies. Alright, but why exactly could fruits and veggies help with this scientists believe it may be one mechanism it may be the Polyphenols plant Phytochemicals because they quote: “battle oxidative stress and stimulate the activation of molecules that aid in synaptic plasticity, a process that underlies cognitive function.” This is important because Synapses, the communication point between your brain cells, is where all of these happiness neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, do their job. But it goes further than that. At least two polyphenols in particular, quercetin and luteolin, have been shown to inhibit the breakdown of those happiness neurotransmitters. That break down is done by what is called Monoamine Oxidase, or let’s just call it MAO, like general Mao. From this study, majorly depressed people have on average 34% higher levels of MAO. In other words, excessive Mao probably destroys happiness But again, luteolin and quercetin have been shown to inhibit MAO. These are the results on individual human cells. quercetin, which did require vitamin C to enter the cell, gave about a 15 percent lowering of MAO activity. And luteolin inhibited it by about 20%, and imagine if these effects did translate to the human body. That 20% reduction in MAO activity could have major implications for those majorly depressed people. Another cool side note, vitamin C is a cofactor in the production of dopamine. So much learning! Anyway, looking at foods highest in quercetin: Capers are at the top, and then there’s some less commonly eaten foods such as a lovage and dock. But it’s also reasonably high in arugula, cilantro, onions, red lettuce, and kale. Oregano and celery seeds are the luteolin champions, but it’s also present in foods such as peppers, thyme, rosemary, and lemons. So, next time you want to eat your feelings, just reach for the capers, lovage, and oregano. Fine, it’s no ice cream, but at least it could be a preventive addition to your diet. More science is needed to really know their true power, their true level of effect. But you might be thinking, “Mike okay, obviously vegetables are healthy for us, but what foods are making us sad?” The first path to dietary sadness I want to explore is the arachidonic acid brain inflammation connection. Arachidonic acid is not spider juice, though it is Halloween season. No, it’s actually an omega-6 that is found in animal foods. Here is a list of the foods that are highest in arachidonic acid. As you can see, it’s chicken, eggs, beef, sausage, etc. But how can a mere omega-6 lead to brain inflammation? From this study, oxidation of arachidonic acid produces pro-inflammatory prostaglandins leukotrienes and thromboxanes. This mouthful of inflammatory products then turn into lipoxins, which initiate ‘the termination sequence’. Need I say more? Alright, let’s look at some actual people from this study higher levels of arachidonic acid were associated with a 45% increased suicide risk and 47% increase in a major depressive episodes. Associations are great and all, but do we have any studies that actually changed people’s diets? Yes, we have this one that’s set out to put people on a zero arachidonic acid diet. In order to do that, they had to get rid of the chicken, the eggs, and the fish as I mentioned earlier, very close to entirely plant-based. The results after just two weeks quote: “Restricting meat, fish, and poultry improved some domains of short-term mood state in omnivores.” So we’re looking at inflammation in the case of arachidonic acid, and it’s clear that it does play a role in depression. Just like basically every other disease. So looking to this study, when they put people on a vegan diet, their inflammation markers dropped by 30%. Alright, moving on. Thanksgiving is also coming up where in the US, we will slaughter needlessly slaughter approximately 46 million turkeys, and then, one in four uncle’s will say “I feel tired after that turkey. Must be the tryptophan, huh?” No uncle Philip. You’re wrong. The reality is as this study mentions, once you eat turkey your tryptophan levels crash. Gobble gobble, bitch. This is because in high protein animal foods, there are so many other amino acids that are competing to get across the blood-brain barrier that tryptophan gets left behind. But there are foods that actually do raise tryptophan which is important because tryptophan is serotonin’s essential amino acid precursor. Precursor means it becomes it. So, you need tryptophan to make serotonin. And now, I’ve heard a lot of anecdotes of people on a more whole food, starch-based diet saying “I cured my depression,” but is there any science behind this? Back to that same study, this is what happens when you eat carbs you get a rise in and tryptophan levels. Scientists attributed this to tryptophan making up a greater proportion of the amino acids therefore reducing competition for brain entry. Okay, but this is pretty removed from people’s actual emotions. Did anybody actually test people’s moods and carb consumption? This study did, it put people on either a high carb or low carb diet for an entire year, and this is what their depression scores look like. The high carb group did way better. In fact, they did way better across the board in categories such as anxiety, hostility, and fatigue. And from this study that looked at emotional states and pms, a carbohydrate rich meal improved their depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness scores. And they attribute that to an increase in serotonin after carb intake. Now I’m not saying you have to eat a super high carb diet, It just appears that there’s a minimum intake of carbs required to keep these emotional processes functioning optimally. And I would also say that choosing whole carbs instead of refined carbs is definitely the way to go, because they have a more stable extended delivery of sugars without those blood sugar spikes and crashes, and also they’re accompanied by antioxidants usually, so win-win-win. Finally do we have any trials showing how a vegan diet might affect mental health? Yes, we do. We have this workplace trial that put people on a vegan diet and the results were a notable improvement in a variety of things including mental health. And that right there, is huge. But there’s probably somebody out there thinking, “But this is totally all bull. I read in that Woman’s Health article that vegan diets cause depression.” now I have a video dedicated to responding to the study at the root of these claims, which in addition to mostly having statistically insignificant findings and spelling the word matched wrong, it was done on vegetarians. It was not done on vegans. This is important because eggs are one of the highest sources of arachidonic acid. And it also didn’t account for how people who are depressed it might have a higher tendency to try different diets. In conclusion, a diet of whole plant foods with enough carbs is a recipe for happiness. You have the polyphenols, which have many mechanisms of action one of which is decreasing the levels of MAO, which potentially eat up your serotonin and dopamine, and make you less happy. You also have all of that vitamin C, which plays an important role in dopamine creation, and the tryptophan actually makes it into your brain where it can then become serotonin, which is huge. We also see that vegan diets have a real effect on mental health in real people, and it also is shown to lower inflammation, which certainly plays a role. So, in the end, there are answers for depression in diet. They might not have all of the answers, but a whole food vegan diet is very promising. There’s good evidence that’ll make you happier, and it’ll definitely make the turkeys happier. Win-win. Gobble gobble. Alright finally, I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Greger over at NutritionFacts, though he hasn’t covered luteolin, to my knowledge, and a couple other studies in here. This was largely a summary of research that was compiled by him. Some people have snarkily called this “Greger recyling” Either way, thank you, Doc. Yet videos like this still take a lot of time, so it’s awesome. If you want to support me on Patreon, thank you so much to those that already do, and most importantly, let me know down below if a change in diet has changed your mood at any point, I’m very curious to know. Alright, that’s it for today. Feel free to like and subscribe, and thank you for watching.