Principal Investigator: Dr Gabriella Juhasz
Department: Neuroscience & Psychiatry Unit
Institution: University of Manchester
University of Manchester, Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit,
Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT
Depressive illness is common and costly to the individual and society.
Genetic makeup accounts for about 1/3rd of the risk of depression and
environmental factors for about 2/3rds. Psychosocial adversity and
stress are important aspects of the environment that contribute to
depression. Other potentially important environmental factors have
been little studied.
It is known that what we eat and drink, our diet (carbohydrates, fats
etc.) and nutrients (e.g. vitamins) is an important influence on the risk of
medical disorders such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
These disorders are associated with an increased risk of subsequent
depression and are more common in those with previous depression.
This suggests that obesity-related disorders and depression may have
some similar pathways of risk. The proposed cross-sectional study aims
to identify shared and specific interactions between diet and
psychosocial and genetic factors for self-reported depression and
We will use the unique combination of psychosocial, dietary and mental
health data available in a subset of 122,000 of the UK Biobank cohort to
decisively determine whether or not there are dietary patterns and
constituents that lower the risk of self-reported lifetime depression in
the face of life stresses. We will then factor-in genetic information
(genotyping data will be requested, i.e. no DNA samples) and, using
sophisticated statistical techniques, find new dietary and genetic factors
that are highlighted because they converge on shared biochemical
Understanding the role of diet in depression meets the UK Biobank’s
stated purpose of improved disease prevention; in contrast to genetic
and psychosocial factors, dietary behaviour is potentially modifiable. For
example, preventative, public health strategies could reduce the
prevalence of depression by promoting resilience to psychosocial
adversity and by offsetting the biochemical consequences of genetic risk.