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Depression: Healthy Eating Lowers Your Risk

First Posted: Sep 17, 2015 11:55 PM EDT
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Your mom always said to eat your fruits and vegetables so you'd grow up big and strong. She probably didn't mention, too, that they might stave off depression.

Scientists have discovered that a healthy dietary regimen of vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts and few processed meats can help prevent depression, altogether.

In this recent study, researchers collected and analyzed data on more than 15,000 people free of depression. They used questionnaires to assess dietary intake completed at the start of the project and then again after 10 years. A total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of eight and a half years, according to resarchers.

"We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds. These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health," Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, lead researcher of the study, said in a statement. "The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression."

Findings revealed that common nutrients and food items, including those such as omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts and moderate alcohol intake resulted in a lowered depression risk.

"A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets," Sanchez-Villegas said. "So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily."

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