Mood food: DASH diet may reduce depression risk, study shows

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26 Feb 2018 --- Following a specific diet aimed at reducing stroke risk could be the answer to preventing the onset of depression, a study has found. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is high in fruit and vegetables, recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar. The study finds that following such a diet not only lowers high blood pressure, bad cholesterol (LDL) and body weight but also may lower the risk of depression.

“Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke,” says study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression.”

In total, 964 participants with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of six-and-a-half years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression and filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. The researchers looked at how closely the participants' diets fell into three groups: following the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.

People in the groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not. The odds of becoming depressed over time was 11 percent lower among the top group of DASH adherers versus the lowest group. On the other hand, the more closely people followed a Western diet - a diet that is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables - the more likely they were to develop depression.

Cherian notes that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association. Therefore, further research is needed “to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy."

This research adds to the life motto: We are what we eat. NutritionInsight has previously reported on the DASH diet, as well as the role of the diet on brain health and disease defense.

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