Can a healthy diet kick depression to the curb?

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Eating healthy could reduce the risk of severe depression, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland.

People with depressive symptoms often have poor dietary habits, the researchers noted, but so far it has been unclear whether diet and food choices are associated with depression risk in healthy individuals.

The study

Researchers analyzed participants in the population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study. The study included over 2,000 middle-aged or older Finnish men who were followed for an average of 13-20 years. Measuring the participants' diets through food records and questionnaires, the researchers also compared the data to the effects of a three-year lifestyle intervention study called the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, which included 140 middle-aged men and women.

Results

Participants who followed a healthy diet - characterized by vegetables, fruits, berries, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheeses - were less likely to show depressive symptoms and had a lower risk of depression in the follow-up period of the study.

Subjects who ate higher levels of folate were also less likely to suffer from depression. Folate can be found in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, meat and liver.

"The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention," Anu Ruusunen, study author, said in a statement.

Not only was a healthy diet associated with better mental health, but participants in the three-year lifestyle program also improved depression scores. Moreover, those who had lost body weight had a lower risk for depressive symptoms.

Results of the full study are published in Diabetic Medicine.

Source: Science Daily