Dietary patterns and the risk of depression in adults: a systematic review of observational studies



Diet, a modifiable lifestyle factor, may influence the development of depression. We performed a systematic review of observational studies examining the relationship between dietary patterns and depression in healthy adults.


A literature research was conducted searching various electronic databases up to May 2013. Study selection was based on predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Included studies were reviewed, and relevant data were extracted by two independent researchers. Due to a high level of heterogeneity, no meta-analysis was conducted. Therefore, main results are presented in a descriptive way.


In total, 16 studies met the inclusion criteria and are part of this review. Dietary patterns most commonly found were traditional/healthy patterns, Western/unhealthy patterns and Mediterranean patterns. The available literature suggests a protective effect of healthy and Mediterranean patterns, as well as a potential positive association of Western patterns and depression. However, comparison of the included studies was difficult, due to differences in relevant study characteristics and methodological limitations.


There are indications that dietary patterns may have influence on the onset of depression, but no firm conclusion can be drawn at this point. Further research is needed to clarify the diet–depression relationship, preferably in the form of methodological strong prospective studies using more homogeneous methods.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the following funding: This review is part of a research project linked to the BiDirect Study, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, 01ER0816).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Corinna Rahe.

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Rahe, C., Unrath, M. & Berger, K. Dietary patterns and the risk of depression in adults: a systematic review of observational studies. Eur J Nutr 53, 997–1013 (2014).

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  • Diet
  • Dietary patterns
  • Depression
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Systematic review
  • Observational studies