A diet that's good for the heart could also reduce the risk of depression among older people
A diet used to tackle high blood pressure with plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains is also linked to a lower risk of depression among older people, a new study suggests.
Scientists said that those who followed the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is aimed at reducing the risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure, were less likely to feel low than those who didn’t.
Study author Dr Laurel Cherian, of Rush University Medical Centre on Chicago, said: “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.
“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.”
The six-and-a-half-year study involved 964 participants with an average age of 81.
It involved three groups of people – those who followed the DASH diet closely, those who followed it less strictly and those who had a more typical Western diet.
The results showed that people who strictly adhered to the DASH diet were 11% less likely to develop depression than those who did not follow the diet closely.
Conversely, the participants who followed a Western diet – deemed to be high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables – were found to be more likely to develop depression.
However, Dr Cherian points out that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression – it only shows an association.
Dr Cherian said: “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.”
The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in April.