It’s possible that a diet originally intended to help lower blood pressure without medication might address depression as well. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, also known as the DASH diet, originally came about as a means of treating high blood pressure without medication.
Originally developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, DASH also became a method for losing weight. Now it appears to have appeal for the 3.3 million American adults that are affected by depression.
Americans spend an estimated $201 billion annually on mental health care, including depression, making it among the costliest health category to take care of long term, according to Health Affairs. The costs include prescription medications, psychotherapy, and hospital visits.
The DASH Diet Study
Lower incidence of depression was found among adults who adhered closest to the DASH diet over a 6.5-year span of a study by the American Academy of Neurology.
The study looked at 964 adults, with an average age of 81, who followed one of three diets:
- Western diet – This diet is high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Mediterranean diet – This is primarily plant-based, focusing on foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
- DASH diet – It focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but avoids items high in sugars and saturated fats.
Those who adhered to DASH most closely were 11% less likely to have depression over the span of 6.5 years than individuals who didn’t adhere to the diet as strictly.
Further Research Needed
Currently, researchers are only able to note an association between the DASH diet and a lower risk of depression, not a causal effect. Therefore, more research is needed, said Dr. Laurel Cherian, co-author of the study.
Nonetheless, Cherian and her colleagues plan to present the findings of this study next month at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting. They believe their findings warrant further research on whether finding the right diet could impact depression.
Readers, have you tried modifying your diet to achieve health benefits other than weight loss — and if so, which diet? What effects did you see?