The Link Between Diet & Depression

There is some very interesting research around the relationship between inflammation and depression.  There is some evidence that inflammation could mediate risk factors for depression, and some randomized trials have found anti-inflammatory agents to be effective in the treatment of major depression.

Several studies have looked at the influence of diet on chronic inflammation.  Foods contain biologically active compounds that have either pro- or anti-inflammatory properties that can be observed by their effects on markers of inflammation in the body.  Research in this area has led to the developments of the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII). The DII can be used to estimate the effects of diet on a person’s level of inflammation.  Some studies have shown that a higher DII score, corresponding to a pro-inflammatory diet, was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, poorer cognitive functioning, and several types of cancer.

A recent French study examined the link between inflammation and diet and lifestyle factors. In this population a comparison was done between the effects of DII on physically active men, defined as those getting more than 1 hour of daily walking or other exercise, and those getting irregular or less than 1 hour/day of exercise.  In the less physically active group a higher DII score was associated with 2 times the risk of depressive symptoms but there was no such relationship in those getting more exercise.  A similar risk relationship was found between DII and depression risk in current and former smokers, but not in non-smokers.

Several other studies have found a similar relationship between diet and depression risk.  In large population based studies there is generally a significantly higher risk of depression in both women and men consuming a diet with a higher DII compared to those consuming a lower DII diet.

What sort of foods tend to exert an anti-inflammatory effect?  There are many vitamins that fall into that category, and some of the foods include fiber, garlic, ginger, pepper, onion, and tea.  For a more comprehensive list check out this link. It’s interesting to note that a diet higher in calories is also associated with higher inflammation, more evidence that eating more than what is enough to satisfy hunger may not be a good idea.

There is an ever increasing range of diets out there that cater to different people for different reasons, and different people will have different nutritional requirements.  For people who are looking to reduce their levels of inflammation and thereby reduce their risk for various diseases it seems like the best diet to follow might be one that has a lower Diet Inflammatory Index.

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