Diet and depression: exploring the biological mechanisms of action

Wolfgang Marx, Melissa Lane, Meghan Hockey, Hajara Aslam, Michael Berk, Ken Walder, Alessandra Borsini, Joseph Firth, Carmine M. Pariante, Kirsten Berding, John F. Cryan, Gerard Clarke, Jeffrey M. Craig, Kuan Pin Su, David Mischoulon, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Jane A. Foster, Patrice D. Cani, Sandrine Thuret, Heidi M. StaudacherAlmudena Sánchez-Villegas, Husnain Arshad, Tasnime Akbaraly, Adrienne O’Neil, Toby Segasby, Felice N. Jacka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


The field of nutritional psychiatry has generated observational and efficacy data supporting a role for healthy dietary patterns in depression onset and symptom management. To guide future clinical trials and targeted dietary therapies, this review provides an overview of what is currently known regarding underlying mechanisms of action by which diet may influence mental and brain health. The mechanisms of action associating diet with health outcomes are complex, multifaceted, interacting, and not restricted to any one biological pathway. Numerous pathways were identified through which diet could plausibly affect mental health. These include modulation of pathways involved in inflammation, oxidative stress, epigenetics, mitochondrial dysfunction, the gut microbiota, tryptophan–kynurenine metabolism, the HPA axis, neurogenesis and BDNF, epigenetics, and obesity. However, the nascent nature of the nutritional psychiatry field to date means that the existing literature identified in this review is largely comprised of preclinical animal studies. To fully identify and elucidate complex mechanisms of action, intervention studies that assess markers related to these pathways within clinically diagnosed human populations are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-150
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Diet and depression: exploring the biological mechanisms of action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this