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The association between diet quality, dietary patterns and depression in adults: a systematic review

Shae E Quirk1, Lana J Williams12, Adrienne O’Neil13, Julie A Pasco14, Felice N Jacka145, Siobhan Housden1, Michael Berk1456 and Sharon L Brennan1247*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

2 Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

3 School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

4 Northwest Academic Centre, Department of Medicine, The University of Melbourne, Sunshine Hospital, 176 Furlong Road, St Albans, Australia

5 Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Parkville, Australia

6 Mental Health Research Institute, Parkville, Australia

7 Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science, The University of Melbourne, 176 Furlong Road, St Albans, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:175  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-175

Published: 27 June 2013



Recent evidence suggests that diet modifies key biological factors associated with the development of depression; however, associations between diet quality and depression are not fully understood. We performed a systematic review to evaluate existing evidence regarding the association between diet quality and depression.


A computer-aided literature search was conducted using Medline, CINAHL, and PsycINFO, January 1965 to October 2011, and a best-evidence analysis performed.


Twenty-five studies from nine countries met eligibility criteria. Our best-evidence analyses found limited evidence to support an association between traditional diets (Mediterranean or Norwegian diets) and depression. We also observed a conflicting level of evidence for associations between (i) a traditional Japanese diet and depression, (ii) a “healthy” diet and depression, (iii) a Western diet and depression, and (iv) individuals with depression and the likelihood of eating a less healthy diet.


To our knowledge, this is the first review to synthesize and critically analyze evidence regarding diet quality, dietary patterns and depression. Further studies are urgently required to elucidate whether a true causal association exists.

Depression; Diet; Food habits; Adults; Systematic review