September 16, 2013

Healthier Diet Leads To Happier People

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Obesity can do more than increase a person’s risk of diabetes, heart failure and stroke. A Finnish researcher now claims obesity can increase the risk of severe depression. Switching to a healthy diet full of fresh foods and even coffee was found to reduce more than a person’s waistline. Folate, a version of vitamin B, was specifically mentioned in the research as a key player in reducing the risk of obesity and depression. Switching to a diet rich in folic acids and increasing coffee consumption can spare someone from not only the dangerous health risks of obesity, but the overwhelming sadness that could accompany it. Anu Ruusunen, MSc, with the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland led the research and has posted the results online.

“The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention,” Ruusunen said in a statement.

Nutrient and vitamin deficiencies have before been blamed for depressive episodes and behavior. This study, however, found those who followed a healthy diet complete with these nutrients — specifically folic acid — are less likely to become depressed.

Diets complete with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and liver provided ample amounts of these nutrients and folates and were found to reduce the risk of depression. Moreover, people who ate these kinds of foods were also found to lose weight, and as their weight decreased, so too did their risk of developing depression. Ruusunen and team gathered data from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study, which observed more than 2,000 middle-aged European men.

This study followed the men for an average of 13 years and asked them to keep diaries of their food intake each day. This information and other questions was then compiled and compared with depression data from the National Hospital Discharge Register. Those who reported eating healthier diets with plenty of folates were less likely to experience depressive episodes. Coffee and tea were also found to reduce the risk of depression, contrary to previous research.

Those who reported eating unhealthy and high-fat diets, however, were more likely to pack on the pounds and therefore, become depressed. As consumption of processed meats such as sausages, manufactured foods, breads and high-sugar deserts increased, so too did a prevalence of depressive symptoms. The link between healthy diets and a decrease in depressive symptoms was found to be stronger than the link between a poor diet and depression. However, the researchers also say the latter association became statistically significant 20 years after the link was first observed. In other words, the longer a person continues to have a poor diet, the worse their depressive symptoms may become.

“The results of this thesis indicate that diet, especially a healthy diet rich in folate, and a dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, berries, whole-grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheese, may be protective against depression,” reads the paper.

Previous research has shown those who suffer from depression often have a deficiency of vitamin B12, which is found in lean meats, such as chicken, and eggs. Vegetarians and vegans would do well to take a supplement to boost their B12 levels, said the researchers.