The DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – might be something to ask your doctor about if you want to lower your blood pressure, lose weight and possibly cut your risk for depression.
A new study suggests that people who adhere to this specific eating plan are less likely to develop depression. The DASH diet calls for eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products. It limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
Although it’s original mission is to help people lower their blood pressure, many find that they lose weight following the DASH diet. Now, research suggests the DASH diet might affect a person’s risk for developing 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,” said study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology in a news release. “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 the study, more than 960 people with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of 6.5 years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression, such as being bothered by things that usually didn’t affect them and feeling hopeless about the future. They also filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. The researchers looked at how closely the participants’ diets followed diets such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.
Researchers found that people who followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people who did not follow the diet closely. Indeed, 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 noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression. The study shows an association.
“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,” Cherian said.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging.