A new study that focused on nutrition and mental health of adolescent athletes found an association between high protein consumption and a decrease in symptoms of depression.
Previous studies have demonstrated 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 caloric intake, 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 symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
The main goal of this new study was to evaluate whether the consumption of certain macro and micronutrients was a predictor of future depressive symptoms in young student-athletes.
The researchers hypothesised that a higher intake of carbohydrates, proteins, 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 adolescent elite athletes were recruited for the study. Symptoms of depression were recorded at baseline and again during a follow-up at 10 months. Three months after the baseline assessment of depression was conducted, the participants recorded their dietary intake for three days.
The researchers then used linear regression analyses to assess whether micronutrients could predict depression symptom severity, controlling for co-variates and baseline depressive symptoms.
The results showed higher protein intake was associated with a reduction in symptoms of depression during the follow-up period.
Additionally, several deviations from the recommended nutritional intake were reported by the athletes.
Researchers say additional studies are required with larger sample sizes and more in-depth assessment techniques. They recommend future studies should focus on nutritional education and investigate whether dietary modifications could be implemented to improve depressive symptoms in student-athletes.