Food and Behaviour Research

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An anti-inflammatory diet as a potential intervention for depressive disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Tolkien K, Bradburn S, Murgatroyd C (2018) Clin Nutr.  2018 Nov.  pii: S0261-5614(18)32540-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.11.007. [Epub ahead of print] 

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There is a large body of evidence which supports the role of inflammation in the pathophysiology of mental health disorders, including depression. Dietary patterns have been shown to modulate the inflammatory state, thus highlighting their potential as a therapeutic tool in disorders with an inflammatory basis. Here we conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of current literature addressing whether there is a link between the inflammatory potential of a diet and risk of depression or depressive symptoms.


A systematic literature search was performed to identify studies that reported an association between the inflammatory potential of the diet and risk of depressive symptoms or diagnosis of depression. Random effect models were used to meta-analyse effect sizes. Quality assessment, publication bias, sensitivity and subgroup analyses were also performed.


Eleven studies, with a total of 101,950 participants at baseline (age range: 16-72 years old), were eligible for review. A significant association between a pro-inflammatory diet and increased risk of depression diagnosis or symptoms was evident, relative to those on an anti-inflammatory diet (OR: 1.40, 95% confidence intervals: 1.21-1.62, P < 0.001). No publication bias was detected; however, some study heterogeneity was evident (I2 = 63%, P < 0.001). Subgroup analyses suggested the main source of study heterogeneity was the study design (cross-sectional or longitudinal) and the effect measure used (odds ratio, hazard ratio or relative risk).


These results provide an association between pro-inflammatory diet and risk of depression. Thus, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may be an effective intervention or preventative means of reducing depression risk and symptoms.


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