While the ketogenic diet — or simply keto for short — is the latest rage in weight loss circles, some experts say that the good old-fashioned Mediterranean diet is still the champion of healthy eating.
For years, the American Heart Association has touted the benefits of the Mediterranean diet to prevent heart disease after a 2013 study revealed that people who followed this low-fat, veggie-rich plan had fewer heart attacks and strokes.
Now, a breakthrough study reveals that the same foods that may help prevent heart disease are also linked with lower incidence of depression. While interventions like antidepressants and exercise offer solutions, this new piece of the puzzle may help the 40 million adults in the U.S. suffering from anxiety orders and depression, the most common mental illness in this country.
The study, from the University of Edinburgh in the U.K, found a direct link between depression and an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Researchers found that men aged 45 to 79 who had high levels of psychological distress were a whopping 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 44 percent more likely to have a stroke. Women in the same age category were 24 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 68 percent more likely to have a stroke. They also found that those who closely followed the heart healthy Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing depression, a condition that affects 300 million people globally.
“We found that people with a more Mediterranean-like diet had a 33 percent lower risk of developing depression than people whose diet least resembled a Mediterranean diet,” says Camille Lassale, PhD., a research associate at University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health. She and her team of scientists researched 41 studies on diets and depression. Her results showed that the same diet touted to stave off heart disease may also be psychologically beneficial.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly legumes, poultry, and fish, with very little red meat and dairy. A little red wine is also included in this popular plan, which nutritional experts say may have a profound anti-inflammatory effect not only in the body but also in the brain. Many studies have linked brain inflammation to developing depression.
“A diet rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components, commonly found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and wine in moderation, can directly affect the brain by protecting it from oxidative stress and inflammation,” the study authors wrote.
From a health perspective, experts say that that it's pretty hard to criticize a diet that embraces a variety of scientifically proven health foods, especially one chock full of fruits and vegetables. While fad diets like the keto and carnivore abound, this new study may put some perspective on what really constitutes a healthy diet.
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