Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago evaluated 964 participants, average age 81, every year over a period of six and a half years. The subjects were divided into three groups, two of which closely followed the DASH Diet — a well-balanced meal plan of mostly fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy — or something similar, and a third which adhered more to a Western diet —high in saturated fats and red meat.
Based on the subjects’ answers to questionnaires about diet and wellbeing, the researchers found that the participants in the first two groups were 11 percent less likely to suffer from depression that those in the third group.
“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,” said study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “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.”
DASH — which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — was developed by the National Institutes of Health to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and promoting weight-loss.
US News and World Report ranked it the best overall diet of 2018. DASH tied with the Mediterranean diet, which similarly outlines a non-restrictive, moderate meal plan, as opposed to diets that call for calorie counting or eliminating certain food groups.
Cherian concluded that “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.”
It would certainly be helpful to see if the DASH diet could be effective in staving off depression in much younger subjects.