DASH diet benefits extends beyond hypertension to preventing depression

The DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet has been a popular one to reduce the risk of hypertension. A new study has found that it may also reduce the risk of depression later in life.

Researchers are to present this study and its findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in April. They have shown that this diet that is fat free or low fat, high on vegetables and fruits and whole grains and low on saturated fats and salt can benefit the overall health of an individual in more ways than one. Studies have shown that this diet can help reduce blood pressure and also bad cholesterol long with body weight reduction.

Image Credit: Natee Peamsuwan / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Natee Peamsuwan / Shutterstock

According to study authors Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, depression is a common condition among the elderly along with memory impairments and these individuals tend to have other cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Depression is also common after a stroke and high blood pressure is associated with stroke. She explained, “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.”

For this study the team included 964 adults with an average age of 81 years and followed them and their dietary habits for an average of six and a half years. The symptoms of cardiovascular disease as well as depression were closely monitored in these individuals. The diets surveyed included DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and traditional Western diets.

Results showed that the risks of their becoming depressed over time was 11 percent less than their contemporaries who followed a more Western diet with low fruits and vegetables, high amounts of red meats and saturated fats. The Mediterranean diet on the other hand comprises of fish, olive oil and vegetables and is found to be heart healthy.

The DASH diet was originally recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to reduce blood pressure by reducing sodium or salt intake in diet and increasing fruits and vegetables. It is low on sodium and high on potassium, magnesium and calcium. The diet includes whole grains and non-fat dairy. This new study explores the benefits of this diet over and above reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and thus comes with a higher advantage over traditional diets. Earlier studies have shown how DASH diet can reduce cholesterol, risk of heart failure, risk of diabetes, kidney stones and even some forms of cancer.

According to Cherian, this study just associates DASH diet with lower risk of depression, further studies are 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.”

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