MAR 13, 2018 8:17 AM PDT

The DASH Diet Does Double Duty

Another day, another diet? There are a lot of options out there whether for weight loss, cardiovascular issues or general health, but one, in particular, might have another benefit.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is heavy on the fruits, veggies and whole grains and light on the fat and sugar. Patients who are overweight or have high blood pressure, stroke risk or heart disease are often placed on this diet. It's been shown in numerous research work that it reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), lowers blood pressure and aids with weight loss. But wait, there's more!

Recent research into mental health, however, shows that the DASH diet could be lowering some the risk for depression in some. The study is preliminary but will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting next month. Study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. She explained, "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. 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."

The study included 964 older adults, with an average age of 81. Patients were followed for as long as six years and monitored for signs of depression. Questionnaires about their diets were also compiled and sorted into types, such as a traditional Western diet, the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. When the participants were categorized into groups by how closely they followed a particular diet, the results became more evident. When the DASH dieters were compared other groups, those who followed the diet in the strictest sense had an 11% reduction in their risk of developing depression. Conversely, participants who followed a Western diet, which as more fat, sugar, and salt than the other diets, had a higher incidence of depression. The rate of depression was also lower in the participants who adhered to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in healthy fats, vegetables, grains and lean fish.

There is not enough data to say for sure that a DASH diet can prevent depression, or lower one's risk; the authors stressed that they could not show a causal relationship. However seeing an association between a lower rate of depression and a diet that is already a top choice for treating heart disease, stroke, and obesity is useful information for healthcare providers to pass on to their patients. Going forward, the team hopes to confirm a relationship between diet and depression that choices made early in life can be beneficial even years later.

Sources: American Academy of Neurology, CBS News

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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