Feb. 26 (UPI) -- People who adhere to a diet to avoid hypertension also were less likely to develop depression, according to a preliminary study released Monday.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, known as DASH, has been shown to lower high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, but it can also reduce depression, according to a study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles..
The diet relies on vegetables, fruit and whole grains, recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods high in saturated fats and sugar. In an earlier study published in the BMJ medical journal in January, people whose eating habits over two decades aligned most closely with the DASH or AHEI-2010 diets experienced a drop in overall body weight and BMI despite genes that put them at greater risk for obesity.
"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," Dr. Laurel Cherian, author of the study and researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a press release. "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 participants with an average age of 81 for who were followed for about six years.
Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to diets, including the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet. The Western diet is often high in saturated fats and red meats, and low in fruits and vegetables.
Depression symptoms, including feeling hopeless about the future, were studied. The participants also detailed how often they ate various foods, and researchers looked at how closely the participants' diets followed diets.
Researchers found people in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than those in the group that did not follow the diet closely.
Among the top group of DASH adherers, the odds of becoming depressed were 11 percent less than the lowest group. Conversely, the more closely people followed a Western diet, were more likely were to develop depression.
He said the study links the DASH diet to a reduced risk of depression, but doesn't prove it leads to reduced risk.
"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," Cherian said.