How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Prevent Mood Disorders In 2021
Mental HealthTo this day, mental health is often considered a taboo subject in several cultures. Though often difficult to talk about, discussing depression and various mental health issues can break down the stigma behind them and welcome conversations about the battles people face. The mind and the body are intertwined and interconnected, which is why we must prioritize both physical and psychological well-being. When it comes to promoting health and welfare, prevention is key. And that’s why today we’ll be focusing on how we can potentially prevent the recurrence of depression.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest” (1). It’s a feeling that can make it difficult to complete daily tasks or even cause someone to feel that their life is pointless. Some symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, insomnia, reduced appetite, lack of energy, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, or frequent thoughts of death (1). These symptoms vary among different people based on factors like age, stressors, and situations. The exact cause of depression is still unknown, but research has been found that some potential causes of depression may include biological differences, brain chemistry, hormones, and inherited traits (1). Research also suggests that certain factors increase people’s risk of developing depression in comparison to others. As the National Institute of Mental Health cites, the list of risk factors includes specific personality traits (low self-esteem or dependence on others), traumatic or stressful events (abuse), blood relatives with a history of depression, medications, or abuse of alcohol or drugs (2). For a more in-depth and informative resource about depression be sure to visit the Mayo Clinic or the National Institute of Mental Health websites.
The Mediterranean Diet and Preventing Depression
In addition to medication, there are several holistic and natural ways to combat depression; a healthy diet and lifestyle being a great place to start. The word ‘diet’ may seem intimidating at first glance, but it is important to distinguish the difference between diet-ing and diet. What we’re suggesting is to make conscious decisions about the foods you eat, not simply restrict yourself to small amounts of food. If you want to eat ice cream after lunch, go for it! It’s important to listen to your body and give it what it needs. It’s also important to be consistent with your diet as you’ll be more likely to understand your needs when you’re eating mindfully and are in tune with your body. The Mediterranean Diet is the perfect place to start because it uniquely incorporates vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein, dairy, and healthy fats. In fact, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a commonly used ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, is one of the healthiest fats in the world! EVOO is made up of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which are known to be of critical importance during brain development, for maintaining heart health, as well as preventing various cognitive disorders. But how exactly does EVOO play a role in preventing depression? Let’s find out!
When analyzing the effects of extra virgin olive oil on those with depression, it’s essential that we look at a range of different ages. To begin, we will look at four distinct groups: perinatal, adolescents, young adults, and geriatrics.
There are quite a few safety considerations to take into account when it comes to pediatrics. As cited by Chang and Su, “Due to the relative safe and tolerability profile [13,84] of n-3 PUFAs, they have been suggested as potential treatments for pediatric psychiatric disorders including ADHD, ASD and pediatric MDD” (3). They carry on to say, “[Overall] N-3 PUFAs supplementation is important throughout of life span even during prenatal period, and n-3 PUFAs deficiency may contribute to the development of pediatric psychiatric disorders” (3). The research suggests that decreased amounts of N-3 PUFAs, which are also found in extra virgin olive oil, may increase your child’s risk of developing pediatric psychiatric disorder, like depression. The necessary amount of DHA and EVOO intake should be consulted with your doctor prior to consumption. As you and your child may need varying amounts depending on the stage of pregnancy or the age of the baby. The European Food Safety Authority, “... has DHA dietary recommendations for infants and toddlers aged 6−24 months (100 mg DHA/d)” (3).
To provide some context, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an Omega-3 Fatty Acid, and Arachidonic Acid (AA), an Omega-6 Fatty Acid, are both found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In the Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience journal, a study led by Chang and Su cites that “N-3 PUFAs have been reported to be lower in youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and major depressive disorder (MDD)” (3). In particular, we will be focusing on the impact of these fatty acids on depression. The study compares the effects between Omega-3 Fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids and states that the levels “...in children and adolescents (age 7−18 years-old) with first time diagnosed depressive disorder (DD) and mixed anxiety and depressive disorder (MADD) for 12 weeks showed that n-3 PUFAs (1,000 mg EPA + 750 mg DHA) is superior in the reduction of the overall depression symptoms” (3). These results display that children and adolescents with supplements of n-3 PUFAs have an overall decrease in symptoms of depression. This can mean fewer feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, and even insomnia!
However, experts suggest that “If children with ADHD, ASD and MDD want to take n-3 PUFAs, and are responding well with the current prescription of pharmacotherapy, they should continue with the current treatment and only consider use n-3 PUFAs as an augmentation to the current treatment” (3). It is essential to keep in mind that it is suggested that sources of n-3 PUFAs, like extra virgin olive oil, are to be used alongside treatment and not as a substitute.
To summarize, we should remember that children need proper amounts of n-3 PUFAs supplementation to avoid potential depression and continued mental health issues in the future. And one way to get proper n-3 PUFA supplementation is through extra virgin olive oil!
As for adults, in a study conducted by Sánchez-Villegas et al. (2019), researchers sought to “... investigate the effectiveness of following an extra-virgin olive oil-enriched Mediterranean diet with the risk of depression recurrence and improvement of residual depressive symptoms in participants with previous episodes of [major] depression” (4). There were also assessments for baseline information, dietary data, physical activity, and other variables like socioeconomic status or lifestyle among individuals over the age of 18. The researchers would then look at the recurrence of depression, the appearance of depressive symptoms, and assess the quality of life of participants. As a result, Jacka et al. found “... improvements in depressive symptoms in a sample of 56 depressive patients after 12 weeks of a dietary intervention with a Mediterranean diet in comparison to a social intervention” (4). In addition, Parletta et al. reported decreased depression as well as higher quality of life “... among participants with higher MedDiet scorings in a clinical trial of 95 depressive patients based on the intervention with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fish” (4). As we can see from these results, there seems to be a connection between eating an extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet and a decrease of recurring risk of depression in regards to young adults.
Furthermore, in a cross-sectional study conducted by Paglia et al. (2018) amongst subjects aged from 90 to 99 years of age, a version of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) was utilized to discern symptoms of depression (5). In conclusion, it was found that male and female subjects who claimed to consume larger amounts of both olive oil and fruit were at a lower risk of depression (5). A well-balanced diet appears to benefit adults in late-life as well.
The struggle with depression is a long and hard fight, which lasts lifelong for some. There is no overnight solution to defeat these negative emotions, but we encourage you to take micro steps towards a positive, holistic lifestyle. We suggest that you start by implementing extra virgin olive oil into your diet today. Overall, there seems to be a positive relationship between those of various age groups and decreased risk of depression as well as recurrence of depressive symptoms. Check out our Roasted Bell Pepper and Feta recipe for a simple way to add olive oil to a healthy meal.
Written by Mridini Chandrasekaran
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.
Image Credit: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels & Photo by graphics point from Pexels
Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: Will Extra Virgin Olive Oil help totally eliminate my mood disorders
A: For existing mood disorders, implementing extra virgin olive oil into your diet will not be a cure all to your current symptoms and conditions but can aid help mediate worsening conditions through prevention.
Q: Is olive oil good for anxiety?
A: Olive oil has anti-oxidants properties that can help improve cognition and reduces anxiety
Q: Which oil is best for brain?
A: Olive oil is considered the best oil out there for your brain as it contains fats in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health.