High Protein Diet Reduces Depression Symptoms

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

Source: Neuroscience News

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 hypothesized 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.

This shows eggs and avacado
Higher protein consumption was linked with a reduction in symptoms of depression. Image is in the public domain

The researchers then used linear regression analyses to assess whether micronutrients could predict depression symptom severity, controlling for covariates 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.

About this diet and depression research news

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

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


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


Appropriate availability of macro- and micronutrients has an important impact on cognitive performance, mood and mental health. Although the critical role of nutrition for elite athletes’ performance was recognized early on, little is known about whether consumption of specific macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fat) predict the development of future depressive symptoms in adolescent elite athletes.


Participants were recruited from three Swiss Olympic Partner Schools (SOPS) in the Northwestern German speaking part of Switzerland. A total of 97 adolescent elite athletes (38% girls, Mage = 16.35 ± 1.19) participated in the study. Depressive symptoms (PHQ9) were assessed at baseline and after 10 months follow-up. A 3-day food recall was completed three months after the baseline assessment. Linear regression analyses were used to examine whether macronutrients predict 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 recommended nutritional standards were observed in elite athletes.


The findings of this exploratory study support the notion that dietary behaviour may be prospectively associated with athletes’ mental health. However, more research is required with larger samples and more in-depth assessment techniques. Future research should also examine whether nutrition education and dietary modification can be used to prevent depressive symptoms among adolescent elite athletes.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.