Unhealthy diets could fuel female depression

Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:15pm EST
 
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Women who suffer from depression and anxiety may want to take a look at their diet and cut out processed foods, according to an Australian study.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne found that mood disorders were more common among women aged 20 to 93 who, over 10 years, ate primarily processed, refined, high-fat foods.

"There's no magic diet," Dr. Felice Jacka said in an email to Reuters Health but said eating a diet mainly of vegetables, fruit, whole grain foods, low fat dairy products, and lean meat, and reserving processed and sweet treats to "sometimes foods," will aid physical health and may also support mental well-being.

Jacka's team assessed diet and psychiatric evaluations gathered over 10 years from 1,046 women.

A total of 925 women were free of mood disorders, whereas 121 had depressive and/or anxiety disorders, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. When they assessed how diet might relate to mood disorders, they found that a "Western" diet -- eating primarily hamburgers, white bread, pizza, chips, flavored milk drinks, beer, and sugar-laden foods -- was associated with more than a 50 percent greater likelihood for depressive disorders. By contrast, both depression and anxiety disorders appeared about 30 percent less likely among women eating a more "traditional" Australian diet --- mostly of vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish, and whole-grain foods. These associations remained when the research team allowed for a variety of factors including age, body weight, social and economic status, education, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol drinking habits.

But similar "adjusted" analyses in women mainly consuming fruits, salads, fish, tofu, beans, nuts, yogurt, and red wine showed no similar associations. The researchers said the findings highlighted the need for additional investigations to determine whether unhealthy eating leads to declining mental health or vice versa.

(Reporting by Joene Hendry from Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)