Eating whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits is correlated with lower depression rate as well as lowered stroke risk.

Sunday, February 25, 2018 | General Medicine , Healthcare Trends , Stroke & Cerebrovascular

A study of the effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet shows that people who eat vegetables, fruit, and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time. The study will be presented during the April 21-27, 2018 American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles, California.

The study examined lifetime rate of depression in people whose diets adhered more closely to the DASH diet than people who did not closely follow it. The DASH diet recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products, limits foods high in saturated fats and sugar, and high levels of whole grain, fruit, and vegetables. Previous studies of people following the DASH diet have shown health benefits such as lowering weight, high blood pressure, low-density lipids (LDL) (also known as bad cholesterol, and risk factors for stroke.

Study participants (n = 964) with an average age of 81 years underwent annual evaluations for symptoms of depression over an average of six-and-a-half years. Symptoms of depression monitored included feeling hopeless about the future or being bothered by things that usually didn’t affect them.

Subjects reported how often they ate various foods via questionnaires, and researchers examined how closely subjects’ diets matched the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, and the traditional Western diet. Based on the questionnaires, subjects were divided into three groups; those in the two groups that more closely followed the DASH diet were less likely to develop depression compared to the group that did not closely follow the DASH diet. Odds of becoming depressed over time was 11% lower among those most closely following the DASH diet versus the group that most closely followed a Western diet.

Researchers noted that adherence to the DASH diet was correlated with a lower rate of depression, but that there was no evidence that the diet caused the decrease in 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, and people who have had a stroke," said study author Laurel Cherian, MD. "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. Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and 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."

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