More than 150 million people in the world are affected by depression, and the personal and societal costs of the disease are devastating
By 2020, depression is expected to be the second most common disease worldwide, second only to cardiovascular disease.
The causes of depression are multifaceted and can include genetics, adverse life events such as abuse or trauma, substance abuse and certain medications.
Another potential cause that is gaining attention is related to nutrition. Research has shown that certain metabolic and inflammatory processes can play a significant role in depression.
As dietary approaches can have a measureable effect on metabolism and inflammation, researchers are looking into whether diet may be effective in preventing depression.
In some studies, diets rich flavonoid-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and olive oil have been shown to have protective effects against depression. By contrast, diets that skew toward saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, and refined carbohydrates have been shown to increase depression risk.
The dietary inflammatory index (DII) is a tool developed to evaluate the inflammatory potential of different diets.
A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition used the DII to study whether an inflammatory diet had an effect on depression risk in middle-aged women.
The paper, which looked at data from 6438 women in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, found that women who had the most anti-inflammatory diets had a 20% reduced risk of developing depression than women eating the most pro-inflammatory diets.
The authors of this paper concluded that, while more research is necessary to determine causation, diet does indeed seem to influence depression risk in adult women. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods may be advisable for people at risk of developing depression.