A lot has been said about the health benefits of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, which feature in many highly recommended diets as a way to promote weight loss, heart health, and other benefits. But new research recently presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Los Angeles suggests that these foods might have another benefit that doesn’t get mentioned as much: they could potentially reduce the risk of depression.
According to a report from iNews, a team of U.S. researchers found that people who adhered to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet had a lower chance of suffering from depression at the end of the study period. Aside from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice, the plan also includes low-fat dairy, with little-to-no consumption of red meat, sugar, and saturated fat.
The extensive study involved a total of 964 people with an average age of 81, who were monitored for about six-and-a-half years on average, and given questionnaires where they were asked to indicate how frequently they consumed certain foods. The researchers then analyzed the participants’ eating habits to determine how closely they followed plans such as the aforementioned DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, which is also known for its high fruit and vegetable content, and the Western diet, which is often said to be unhealthy due to its high red meat and saturated fat content.
To determine their risk of depression, the participants were also asked if they experienced symptoms such as hopelessness about the future and being uncharacteristically affected by certain things.
At the end of the study period, the participants who consumed a lot of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains had an 11 percent lower risk of depression, as compared to those who mainly stuck to the Western diet, as noted by the Telegraph.
Lead researcher Dr. Laurel Cherian, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, commented that the findings weren’t surprising, as depression is often found in older adults, people with memory problems, stroke survivors, and those with prominent risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“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,” she added.
Despite the study having shown how eating certain types of healthy foods could curb the risk of depression, Cherian stressed that more research is needed to further confirm her team’s findings. She stressed the importance of determining the specific features of the DASH diet that could help people avoid depression in their older years, while also “[keeping] their brains healthy.”