High protein diet reduces symptoms of depression

Summary: Student-athletes who consumed diets higher in protein had a lower severity of depression symptoms, a new study reports.

Source: Neuroscience News

A new study that focused on the nutrition and mental health of teenage athletes found an association between high protein consumption and a decrease in depression symptoms.

Previous studies have shown the importance of nutrition on mental health disorders. Those with severe mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder tend to have poorer diets, more calories, and poorer nutritional intake compared to the general public.

The importance of nutrition is receiving increased attention as a modifiable factor that can help alleviate the symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

The main purpose of this new study was to evaluate if the consumption of certain macro and micronutrients was a predictor of future depressive symptoms in young student-athletes.

The researchers hypothesized that a higher intake of carbohydrates, protein​​​​​​​​​​ and polyunsaturated fatty acids would be a predictor of reduced depressive symptoms at follow-up. They anticipated a positive association between overall fat and sugar intake and future depressive symptoms.

97 elite adolescent athletes were recruited for the study. Depression symptoms were recorded at baseline and again during a 10-month follow-up. Three months after the baseline depression assessment was conducted, participants recorded their dietary intake for three days.

Higher protein consumption has been linked with a reduction in depression symptoms. The image is in the public domain

The researchers used linear regression analysis to assess whether micronutrients could predict the severity of depression symptoms, controlling for covariates and baseline depressive symptoms.

The results showed that higher protein intake was associated with a reduction in depression symptoms during the follow-up period. In addition, many deviations from the recommended nutritional intake have been reported by athletes.

Researchers say additional studies are required with larger sample sizes and more thorough evaluation techniques. They recommend that future studies should focus on nutritional education and investigate whether dietary modifications could be implemented to improve depressive symptoms in student-athletes.

About this diet and depression news search

Author: Press office
Source: Neuroscience News
Contact: Press Office – Neuroscience News
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original search: Open access.
Macronutrient intake as a prospective predictor of depressive symptom severity: An exploratory study with adolescent elite athletesby Markus Gerber et al. Psychology of Sport and Exercise

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Macronutrient intake as a prospective predictor of depressive symptom severity: An exploratory study with adolescent elite athletes


Adequate availability of macro- and micronutrients has an important impact on cognitive performance, mood and mental health. Although the critical role of nutrition for the performance of elite athletes has been recognized before, little is known if the consumption of specific macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fat) predicts the development of future depressive symptoms in ​​teenage elite athletes.

The methods

Participants were recruited from three Swiss Olympic Partner Schools (SOPS) in the northwestern part of German-speaking Switzerland. A total of 97 elite adolescent athletes (38% girls, Myears old = 16.35 ± 1.19) participated in the study. Depressive symptoms (PHQ9) were assessed at baseline and after 10 months of follow-up. A 3-day food recall was completed three months after the baseline assessment. Linear regression analyzes were used to examine whether macronutrients predicted depression symptom severity after controlling for covariates and baseline depressive symptoms.


Higher protein consumption​​​​ in athletes was a prospective predictor of lower depressive symptom severity at follow-up (β = -35, p <.05). Several deviations from the recommended nutritional standards have been observed in elite athletes.


The results of this exploratory study support the notion that dietary behavior can be prospectively associated with the mental health of athletes. However, more research is needed with larger samples and more thorough assessment techniques. Future research should also examine whether nutritional education and dietary modification can be used to prevent depressive symptoms among adolescent elite athletes.

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