DASH and Depression

By Charlyn Fargo

March 2, 2018 4 min read

Feeling down? You may need to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Can it be that simple?

A new study finds that a healthier diet may lower your risk of depression. The study followed nearly 1,000 people, average age 81, for 6 1/2 years. Participants who followed the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) were 11 percent less likely to develop depression than people who followed a diet high in saturated fats and meats and low in fruits and vegetables. The latter had an increased risk for depression.

The DASH diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy and limits foods high in saturated fats and sugar.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology recently.

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," wrote Laurel Cherian, study author with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in an AAN news release.

The study does not prove that the DASH diet reduces the risk of depression, it only shows an association, she said.

Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol or those who have had a stroke.

"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 added.

The study does not prove that the DASH diet reduces the risk of depression, it only shows an association, she noted.

The bottom line is the DASH diet has been proven to be a great way to eat healthy, lower blood pressure and was rated by U.S. News and World Report as the top diet to lose weight. Now you may be able to add reducing the risk of depression to the list of benefits. You can't go wrong with eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and less saturated fats and sugar.

Q and A

Q: Is it safe to drink one diet soda a day?

A: Some studies have linked diet soda consumption to negative health effects. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart attack. But keep in mind that these studies are observational in nature, which means they can't be used to show cause and effect. That raises the possibility that something other than the diet soda could explain the increased health risks. We do know from food safety studies that the amount of artificial sweetener you get in one diet soda a day has not been shown to be harmful. So if you're also eating an overall healthy diet, one diet soda in a day could be safe. This is consistent with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There are alternatives, of course. If you like the bubbles, drink more sparkling water (there are lots of options to choose from). You can flavor your own water with a little spritz of fruit juice, allowing you to control how much and what kind of sugar goes into it. You can also add a little sprig of mint. Or you can have unsweetened iced coffee or teas. The bottom line is to minimize these sodas in general because they have little nutritional value. — Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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