Depression and obesity are common conditions that have been consistently associated. Evidence-based research from epidemiological and clinical trials suggests a bidirectional link between being overweight and psychological health. Community-based cross-sectional studies found that depression is associated with an 18 % increased odds of being obese4.
The well-established epidemiological relationships between diet and depression and the positive results of several intervention studies raise the possibility that diet and nutrition may offer key modifiable targets for the prevention of MDD5. Prevention can help to lessen the global burden of the depressive disease7, and cost-effective interventions are required. To date, few studies have directly manipulated diet and food-related behavior alone to examine their effects on preventing depression, leaving unresolved whether a true causal association exists from diet to depression8 and none thus far have specifically targeted high-risk, overweight individuals.
MooDFOOD employs a unique research approach9 where high quality data from longitudinal prospective European cohort studies will be combined with new data from surveys, short-term experiments and a multi-centre long-term preventive intervention study to explore the multifaceted links of food intake, nutrient status, food-related behaviour and obesity with depression.
To understand how food intake, nutrient status, food-related behaviour and obesity are linked to the development of depression. MooDFOOD will pursue the following two objectives9:
1. To gain a better understanding of the psychological, lifestyle and environmental pathways underlying the multi-faceted, bidirectional links of food intake, nutrient status, food-related behaviour and obesity with depression
2. To develop innovative evidence-based, feasible, effective and sustainable nutritional strategies for the prevention of depression in EU citizens
The MooDFOOD project has employed a number of research strategies to achieve the above objectives. These have included:
- A large double-blind randomised control trial involving over 1000 participants from around Europe with a 2x2 factorial design. Within the trial, high risk participants (classified as overweight or obese with elevated depressive symptoms) were randomly allocated to receive a multi-nutrient supplement, food related behavioural therapy or a combination of both. The onset of Major Depressive Disorder, and depressive symptoms were assessed after 1 year.
- A meta-analysis of existing studies and longitudinal European cohort data examining the association between dietary patterns and nutrient intake with the onset of Major Depressive Disorder and prevalence of depressive symptoms was also conducted
- New data collected from surveys and short-term experiments to investigate the potential of food related behaviour, particularly mindful eating, on depression.
A thorough scientific integration process based on the research outputs will be conducted to produce comprehensive conclusions on the role of diet in preventing depression and a collaborative dissemination approach will be developed to share the resulting nutritional strategies and achieve maximum uptake by EU citizens.