For women whose diets include more foods that trigger inflammation – like diet or sugar-sweetened soft drinks, red meat, refined grains and margarine, and less foods that control inflammation like green leafy and yellow vegetables, olive oil, coffee and wine have up to a 41% greater risk of being diagnosed with depression. These findings come from a new study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

The study was published online October 1, 2013 in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Previous research has suggested a connection between inflammation and depression, but the link between an inflammatory dietary pattern and depression was unknown. While some inflammation helps the immune system fight disease and injury, studies have linked excessive inflammation to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

The researchers found that women who regularly drank sodas, ate red meat or refined grains, and infrequently consumed vegetables, olive oil, coffee and wine were 29% to 41% more likely to be depressed than those who ate the less inflammatory diet.

For over 12 years, the researchers conducted a prospective study of over 43,000 women, ages 50 – 77. None had been diagnosed with depression or were taking antidepressant drugs at the start of the study. The women’s dietary patterns and depression were tracked, and they were tested for inflammation through blood tests.

“These results converge with parallel findings on the relation between diet and physical health. From a public health perspective, it is reassuring that what is good for the body is also good for the mind,” said senior author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition.    Harvard Gazette 11/7/13


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