If you've ever felt a little down after a weekend filled with too many sugary, saturated-fat-filled foods, new research could explain why. A study conducted out of Rush University Medical Center found that when older adults ate diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in refined sugar and saturated fats, they were less likely to be depressed than those who ate diets high in red meat and processed, sugary foods.
The study took a look at the diets of a group of 81-year-olds over a six-year period. One group followed the Dash diet—or a diet high in vegetables and low in saturated fats, aimed at reducing hypertension—and the other followed a Western diet, which was high in red meats and refined sugar. Researchers found that the participants who followed a typically Western diet had a higher risk of depression than those who were eating more plant-based.
"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," explained study author Dr. Laurel Cherian. "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."
There's no question that the brain/gut connection is huge, and this study only provides further evidence of this. If you're looking for more specific foods and supplements to improve your diet, consider adding more probiotics, tea, oily fish, and pumpkin seeds.
Want more advice on how to reduce your depression risk? Here's why exercising can cut your depression risk in half.