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Adhering to this repeatedly top-ranked diet might lower the risk of depression


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Photo: Stocksy/Ellie Baygulov

The ketogenic diet, pegan diet, and Whole30 seem to be hot nutrition plans in the wellness world as of late. But for eight consecutive years, a diet you might have never heard of has dominated the rankings as the best overall plan, according to US News and World Report: the DASH diet. And now, a new study links it with a lowered risk of developing depression.

Here’s the lowdown on DASH: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to reduce blood pressure, and the guidelines are quite simple. Limit your intake of sodium, saturated and trans fats, and sugar; eat plenty of produce and whole grains; and skew toward fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

For the study, researchers tracked 964 participants with the average age of 81 for 6.5 years and evaluated them annually for symptoms of depression. The participants provided information about their diet, which was used to separate them into three groups: the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, and a traditional Western (high in saturated fats and red meats, i.e., the least healthy) diet. The participants were then split into three subcategories within their diet, based on how closely they adhered to it.

The study results claimed “the more closely people followed a Western diet…the more likely they were to develop depression.”

The results indicated that those who followed the DASH diet closely were the least likely to develop depression, while those who followed the Western diet were the most likely. Furthermore, the margin between the least and most likely to develop depression was a staggering 11 percent. Not only that, but the study results also claimed “the more closely people followed a Western diet…the more likely they were to develop depression.”

Though the study is promising, there are a few noteworthy drawbacks: 81 is an extremely high average age and is not exactly representative of the adult population; self-reporting is very rarely exact or accurate; and though the study shows a connection between diet and depression, it doesn’t prove causality.

“Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications,” study author Laurel Cherian, MD, said in the press release. “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.”

At the very least, cutting back on sugar seems to be pretty good advice, no matter which diet plan you’re loyal to.

Read more about why some doctors think that certain diets could be more powerful than antipsychotic medications and the surprising connection between gut health and postpartum depression.

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