Eating vegetables, fruit and whole grains may help combat depression, a new study has found.
Researchers in the US evaluated almost 1,000 participants with an average age of 81 for an average of six-and-a-half years.
They discovered that people who limited their intake of saturated fats, sugar, red meat and fatty dairy products, and mainly ate vegetables, fruit and whole grains were 11 per cent less likely to become depressed by the end of the study.
"Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke," said study author Laurel Cherian of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
"Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression."
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK, with almost eight per cent of people meeting criteria for diagnosis, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
NHS prescriptions for antidepressants reached an all-time high last year.
While being evaluated, participants in the study were monitored for symptoms of depression, such as being bothered by things that usually didn't affect them and feeling hopeless about the future.
They also filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods, and the researchers looked at how closely the participants' diets followed diets such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.
Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the diets, and people in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that didn’t.
"Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy," said Cherian.
She noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression, bur rather shows an association.