DASH diet may lower risk of developing depression, study suggests

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Vegetable diet
Some of more than 8,000lbs of locally grown broccoli from a partnership between Farm to School and Healthy School Meals is served in a salad to students at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California, March 7, 2011. Reuters/Mike Blake

A new study has found that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet offers other benefits aside from helping with weight loss. Research suggests that the diet could also help lower blood pressure and the risk of developing depression.

The research involved 964 participants with an average age of 81 for an average of six and a half years. Researchers from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago assessed them annually for depression symptoms. These include “being bothered by things that usually didn’t affect them” as well as “feeling hopeless about the future.” The participants were asked to answer questionnaires to assess how closely they followed diets like the DASH and traditional Western diets.

The study has found that participants who opted to closely follow the DASH diet were less likely to have negative thoughts and feelings than those who did not. The study also found that participants who managed to adhere to the diet show an 11 percent lower risk of developing depression compared to those who were not able to commit.

Dr Laurel Cherian, the lead author of the study, said that those who followed a Western diet closely are more likely to develop depression. Such type of diet is high in saturated fats and red meats, and low in vegetables and fruits.

The DASH diet, on the other hand, is high in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It recommends a moderate consumption of lean meats, beans and nuts, fish and poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products to help people with high blood pressure.

“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,” Cherian explained. Making a lifestyle change like changing a person’s diet is usually preferred over taking medications.

According to Cherian, following the DASH diet will reduce the risk of depression. More studies are reportedly needed to support how effective it is.

Previous studies have shown that the DASH diet can help reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol and high blood pressure. It can also help lower the risks of stroke and heart attack. Research also suggests that the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diet is a combination of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet.