Healthy diet helps treat depression, saves money

SYDNEY -- A healthy Mediterranean diet may not only help treat depression, but also can save consumers and patients money as a more cost-effective treatment, according to latest Australian research.

"Our new analysis looked at comparative costs in things like counseling, healthcare visits (or general practitioner visits), medicine, food, travel, and lost productivity to evaluate whether a dietary intervention like this provides value for money," said Dr. Mary Lou Chatterton, a research fellow from Deakin
University, in a statement on its study on Tuesday.

"The lower cost was partially due to fewer health professional visits, such as to doctors, dentists, and psychologists. The participants on the dietary intervention also reported less time lost from unpaid activities, such as housework and childcare."

The university's latest findings build on what it said is ground-breaking evidence that it published last year to show how diet could be used to treat depression.

The move involved patients switching to a Mediterranean diet-like regime of increasing the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil, and nuts, while reducing their consumption of unhealthy "extras", such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats, and sugary drinks.

The latest economic analysis on the simple dietary improvements, published in the journal BMC Public Health, factored in dietitians' wage costs as well as food, with costs for consumers of the healthier diet estimated at 26 Australian dollars (USD19.70) per week, lower than their normal consumption before they began the trial, according to the researchers.

"We already know that dietary counseling is cost-effective, when it comes to the management of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes," Chatterton said. "But these results indicate that providing support for people with depression to improve their diet may be a cost-effective strategy to reduce mental health symptoms, too. There is a strong relationship between depression and the development of other chronic health conditions like these. So a dietary improvement strategy could have multiple benefits that translate to wider health and wellbeing." (Xinhua)