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Mediterranean diet and mental distress: “10,001 Dalmatians” study

Fiorella Pia Salvatore (Department of Economics, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy)
Ajka Relja (Department of Public Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia)
Ivona Šimunović Filipčić (Department of Psychological Medicine, University Hospital Centre Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia)
Ozren Polašek (Department of Public Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia)
Ivana Kolčić (Department of Public Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 16 May 2019

Issue publication date: 7 June 2019




The impact of eating habits on mental health is gaining more attention recently. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the association between mental distress and the Mediterranean diet (MD) in a community-dwelling adult population of Dalmatia, Croatia.


Participants from the “10,001 Dalmatians” study from the Island of Korcula and the City of Split were included (n=3,392). Lifestyle habits were investigated using a self-administered questionnaire, while mental distress was evaluated using the General Health Questionnaire-30 (GHQ-30) in a cross-sectional design. MD compliance was assessed using the Mediterranean Diet Serving Score. Multivariate linear regression analysis was used in the analysis.


MD compliance was associated with lesser mental distress (ß=−1.96, 95% CI −2.75, −1.17; p<0.001). Inverse association was found between mental distress and higher intake of fruits (ß=−0.64; 95% CI −0.89, −0.39; p<0.001), vegetables (ß=−0.39; 95% CI −0.65, −0.13; p=0.003), olive oil (ß=−0.30; 95% CI −0.56, −0.04; p=0.022) and legumes (ß=−0.83; 95% CI −1.66, 0.00; p=0.049). Mental distress was more intense in women, older participants, those with worse material status, subjects with previously diagnosed chronic diseases and in current smokers.


This study suggests beneficial association of MD and overall mental health, offering important implications for public health provisions. Since the literature search did not reveal any previous study on the association between the MD and GHQ-based mental distress in the general population, this study delivers interesting results and fills this knowledge gap.



This study was funded by the Medical Research Council UK, The Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (Grant No. 216-1080315-0302), the Croatian Science Foundation (Grant No. 8875), Research center of excellence in personalized health care, Ministry of Entrepreneurship (Grant No. KK.; 3ADA), and Croatian Ministry of Science and Education (MINERVA – Microbiome in neurodegenerative diseases and depression).


Salvatore, F.P., Relja, A., Filipčić, I.Š., Polašek, O. and Kolčić, I. (2019), "Mediterranean diet and mental distress: “10,001 Dalmatians” study", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 6, pp. 1314-1326.



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