Nutritional supplements cannot prevent depression

Daily intake of nutritional supplements cannot prevent depression. This is a key finding of the five-year MooDFOOD project, which investigated the relationship between nutrition and depression. This European Commission funded project, led by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, is now coming to an end.

03/05/2019 | 3:40 PM

The MooDFOOD intervention study, which was the largest randomized clinical trial to study the effects of nutritional strategies on the prevention of major depressive disorder, formed a key part of the project. Over 1000 participants across four European countries: the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, who were identified as being at higher risk of developing depression but who were not currently experiencing a major depressive disorder, took part in the study.

Researcher Mariska Bot from Amsterdam UMC: “Daily intake of supplements does not effectively prevent the onset of major depressive disorders, which is often thought. Therapeutic sessions aimed at making changes towards a healthy dietary pattern did also not prevent depression.”  Dr. Bot is first author of a paper showing these results in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Depression is a common disorder
More than 40 million Europeans experience a major depressive disorder. One in ten men and one in five women suffer from clinical depression at least once during their lifetime. Depression is one of the most prevalent and disabling disorders in the EU.

Given the increasing prevalence of depression, more people are actively searching for ways to decrease their risk through lifestyle modification, but are often overwhelmed by confusing and contradictory information. To help European citizens support their mental health, the MooDFOOD project has developed evidence-based nutritional strategies to help prevent depression.

Prevention of depression through a healthy diet
MooDFOOD project coordinators Professor Marjolein Visser and Professor Ingeborg Brouwer of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam: “The MooDFOOD intervention study does show that participants who actually attended several therapeutic sessions did have a reduced risk of developing a major depressive disorder. In addition, several earlier studies, within and outside the MooDFOOD project, have shown that consuming a healthy dietary pattern may support mental health.”

Based on a large number of studies and careful analysis, MooDFOOD researchers have come to three important conclusions. First, a healthy dietary pattern may reduce the risk of developing a depression. Second, in people with obesity, weight loss can lead to a reduction in depressive symptoms. Third, current evidence does not support the use of nutritional supplements in order to prevent depression.

Practical tools
These recent results have important implications for all Europeans. The MooDFOOD team has translated these conclusions into tools for the general population, health professionals (GPs, dieticians and psychologists), researchers and policy makers. Citizens and health professionals can find these tools, together with the MooDFOOD project results and conclusions on the prevention of depression through nutrition on the project website: