Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Late-Life Depression

New research suggested that the higher the intake of vegetables, the lower the likelihood of late-life depression.

By Mary West
May. 28, 2019 10:22 UTC

Scientists at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2019 annual meet­ing pre­sented the results of a study that showed adher­ence to a Mediterranean-style diet may reduce the risk of depres­sion symp­toms in later life.

Their find­ings indi­cated that an eat­ing plan with a high con­tent of veg­eta­bles but lit­tle intake of poul­try and alco­hol proved the most ben­e­fi­cial.

Adherence to a Mediterranean diet may pro­tect against the devel­op­ment of depres­sive symp­toms in older age.- the study’s authors

Doctors have long rec­og­nized the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) as a means of pro­mot­ing longevity and low­er­ing the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and can­cer. Studies also reveal it may help pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline in seniors.

The MedDiet involves fruits, veg­eta­bles, legumes, whole grains, nuts and olive oil. It also includes mod­er­ate amounts of fish, poul­try and dairy prod­ucts, as well as lim­its sweets and red meat. A lifestyle rather than merely a diet, the eat­ing plan is asso­ci­ated with get­ting reg­u­lar exer­cise and eat­ing meals with fam­ily and friends.

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In the cross-sec­tional study from Hellenic Open University, Greece, lead author Konstantinos Argyropoulos and his col­leagues looked at mem­bers of day­care cen­ters for the elderly in East-Attica. Among the par­tic­i­pants, 34 per­cent reported high adher­ence to the MedDiet and 64 per­cent reported medium adher­ence. Screening showed almost 25 per­cent dis­played symp­toms of depres­sion.

The team found each unit increase in veg­etable intake was tied to a 20 per­cent lower risk of depres­sion. In addi­tion, each unit decrease in poul­try intake and alco­hol con­sump­tion was linked to a 36.1 per­cent and 28 per­cent reduc­tion in depres­sion like­li­hood, respec­tively.

Our results sup­port that depres­sion in older adults is com­mon and strongly asso­ci­ated with sev­eral risk fac­tors,” the authors con­cluded. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet may pro­tect against the devel­op­ment of depres­sive symp­toms in older age.”

According to the authors, the study does not prove a cause-effect rela­tion­ship. Instead, it may reflect that peo­ple with depres­sion find it more dif­fi­cult to fol­low a healthy diet.

Mark D Rego, an assis­tant clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at the Yale University School of Medicine, did not par­tic­i­pate in the study, but told Olive Oil Times that the ben­e­fit of the MedDiet for late-life depres­sion may be due to its effects on vas­cu­lar health.

It’s impor­tant to note a few things about this study. Most impor­tantly, it looked at late-life depres­sion,” he said. Cases of depres­sion that first occur after age 55 or 60 are dif­fer­ent than cases of depres­sion that occur at a younger age. Late-life depres­sion isn’t asso­ci­ated with a fam­ily his­tory, and in approx­i­mately half of the cases, it’s the first sign of demen­tia.”

Moreover, this study showed a link between the MedDiet and pre­ven­tion, not treat­ment,” he added. Nonetheless, it’s in agree­ment with many the­o­ries about late-life depres­sion that stress vas­cu­lar health. It may be that many tiny strokes lead to late depres­sion and even pre­dis­pose to demen­tia. The MedDiet is proven to main­tain a high level of vas­cu­lar health and pre­vent many of the usual prob­lems of aging.”


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