Depression is one of the most serious psychiatric disorders as well as one of the most common medical conditions. It affects at least 5% of the population and represents a global issue impacting not only on mental but also on physical health. For example, patients affected with chronic major depression have a greater cardiovascular risk.
Does the gut microbiota play a role in the genesis of depression?
A few years ago researchers at University College Cork, in Ireland, discovered that there are fewer microorganisms in the gut of patients with major depression. Moreover it is possible to transfer the depressive behaviour, at the same time altering the metabolism of tryptophan and inducing the development of inflammation, by transplanting the microbiota from a depressed to a healthy animal model.
It is therefore reasonable to ask whether, by targeting the microbiota, it is possible to treat depression.
According to Ted Dinan, a researcher at University College Cork who has been investigating the brain-intestinal axis for years, besides antidepressants and psychological therapies, it is necessary to provide patients with dietary advice in order to promote greater diversity and speed up the healing process in the recovery from depression. And the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as less red meat, could be an answer.