The popular Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was created to lower blood pressure, but new research says it can also reduce the risk of depression later in life.
A study, to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in April, shows that the popular diet — rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and very few foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar — does more than what has been shown in multiple studies: Lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol (LDL) and body weigh.
In the study, almost 1,000 adults with an average age of 81 were followed for an average of six-and-a-half years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression and completed yearly surveys about their diets (whether what they ate was closer to the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet or the traditional Western diet).
The odds of becoming depressed over time was 11 percent lower among the adults who followed the DASH diet more closely. The group that followed a Western diet — high in saturated fats and red meats, low in fruits and vegetables — were more likely to develop depression.
What is the DASH Diet?
Originally started by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as a diet to help reduce blood pressure, the DASH diet is made up of low-sodium and healthful foods. The NHLBI publishes free guides on the plan so you can see if it is right for you.
What do this findings mean for families?
That something as simple as our diet can affect us in multiple ways. According to ABC News’ senior medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, something like depression isn’t just happening in the brain.
We can’t silo a condition or body part from the rest of our bodies and our behavioral practices. We should take a holistic view on conditions such as depression, mood, cognitive decline, stroke, cardiovascular disease and how food, nutrition and dietary habits affect risk of disease.
It’s never too late in life to change eating or exercise habits; the medical effects of both can be wide-ranging.