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News Article

Depression: could eating more fibre help?

Study finds premenopausal women with depression consume less fibre than those without

Eating more fibre may reduce levels of depression, especially in premenopausal women finds an observational study published in Menopause. The association was not found in postmenopausal women however. If low fibre intake is proved to contribute to depression in pre-menopausal women, then modification of fibre intake could provide a cheap way to help prevent it. A clinical trial of fibre rich and fibre poor diets is needed to confirm the findings. The study was conducted by researchers at Chung-Ang University and Seoul University in Korea.



The World Health Organization estimates more than 264 million people worldwide have depression. Many of them are women. The study authors explain that depression is usually treated with drugs and psychotherapy but lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and changing diet, and behavioural techniques such as mindfulness are being investigated. They list the following dietary factors that may reduce depression: fish, fruit and vegetables, whole grain, olive oil and low fat dairy products.


Previous work on fibre intake and depression

A systematic review of 9 observational studies published last autumn showed there was an association between fibre and depression in both sexes. Studies of fruit and vegetable intake also show an inverse relation with depression. A study on the Korean population suggests the source of fibre may be important for the association. (see Further Reading for the papers). With regard to hormones, one study has already suggested that fibre intake was linked to decreased depression in premenopausal women but not perimenopausal women, according to the study authors.


What this study found

This study examined data for over 5000 women in the Korean National Health and Nutrition surveys in 2014, 2016 and 2018. They were aged over 19 years and were not being treated for depression or pregnant or lactating. Those being treated for major illnesses were also excluded. The researchers examined 24-h dietary recall data and answers to a patient health questionnaire.

They found that overall the dietary fibre intake was significantly higher in non-depressed than in depressed individuals (14.07 g/1000 kcal/day vs 12.67 g/1000 kcal/day.  When the researchers assessed pre- and post-menopausal women they found no association in post-menopausal women. For pre-menopausal women, intakes were 12.45 g/1000/kcal/day vs 10.3 g/1000kcal/day. Further analysis showed an inverse relationship between intake of fibre and depression. The researchers found a 5% decrease in prevalence of depression for a 1 g increase in fibre intake in premenopausal women.

The researchers think their results could be explained by gut-brain interactions and the fact that menopause status as well as fibre intake affects gut microbes.

The editor of Menopause commented: “This study highlights an important link between dietary fiber intake and depression, but the direction of the association is unclear in this observational study, such that women with better mental health may have had a healthier diet and consumed more fiber”



(Fibre or fiber) and (mental or depression)



Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women. a nationwide population-based survey. Kim, Yunsun; Hong, Minseok; Kim, Seonah; Shin, Woo-young; Kim, Jung-ha. Menopause: December 21, 2020. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001711


Article details

  • Author(s)
  • I. Hoskins
  • Date
  • 14 January 2021
  • Source
  • Menopause
  • Subject(s)
  • Nutrition & health