Monday, 13 February 2017

Depression, SMILES and Modified Mediterranean diet (advice)

SMILES in the title of this post refers to the SMILES trial - Supporting the Modification of lifestyle In Lowered Emotional States - and results recently published by Felice Jacka and colleagues [1] (open-access) pertinent to the idea that "dietary improvement" might be something to consider when a diagnosis of major depressive episode (MDE) is received.

Having previously published their study protocol [2], researchers set about looking at whether under "single blind, randomised controlled" conditions, the application of advice pertinent to a diet - the 'ModiMedDiet' - focused on increasing diet quality along Mediterranean diet lines, might be useful for those diagnosed with MDE. The results (which had already been revealed before peer-reviewed publication) said 'yes', such an intervention might be something to consider based on scoring of the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) after 3 months of "individual nutritional consulting sessions delivered by a clinical dietician."

Looking at two groups, those randomly allocated to dietary advice/intervention (n=31 completing) and those allocated to a control condition (social support) (n=25 completing), researchers noted improvements in the MADRS scores more frequently in the diet intervention group. To quote: "At 12 weeks, 32.3% (n = 10) of the dietary support group and 8.0% (n = 2) of the social support control group achieved remission criteria of a score less than 10 on the MADRS." Similar differences were also noted on other study schedules: the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)-depression subscale.

Caveats? Well as a seasoned veteran of research looking at how dietary intervention for labels generally thought to be outside of the somatic domain can go, I can testify to the limitations attached to this kind of work associated with a lack of double-blindedness and issues associated with dietary compliance. This was also a study providing dietary support and so was not necessarily making study controlled meals for each participant over the course of the study (lessons from other recent research show that advice and prompts can only go so far in dietary studies). The authors also note that they "recruited participants on the basis of existing ‘poor’ quality diet" and how "this may limit the generalisability of our findings to the wider population of individuals with depression." An important point indeed.

But this study represents important work and provides yet more evidence that 'nutritional medicine' should perhaps be part of mainstream psychiatry (see here). You can um-and-ah about whether 'food is medicine' and all that jazz (have you never heard of pharmacognosy?) but I'm firmly with the idea that what we eat might, on occasion and for some people, have some pretty profound implications for things other than our physical health and that includes depression (included in several forms)...

To close, a note to any would-be ageing karateka, middle-aged hips tend to take a little more time to get used to perfecting yoko geri kekomi (pass the ibuprofen please). But practice does (eventually) make perfect...


[1] Jacka F. et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Medicine. 2017; 15: 23.

[2] O'Neil A. et al. A randomised, controlled trial of a dietary intervention for adults with major depression (the “SMILES” trial): study protocol. BMC Psychiatry. 2013; 13: 114.

---------- Jacka, F., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., Castle, D., Dash, S., Mihalopoulos, C., Chatterton, M., Brazionis, L., Dean, O., Hodge, A., & Berk, M. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial) BMC Medicine, 15 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y