Novel diet lowers risk of stroke, depression
*Gluten free meal reduces nerve pain by 89% for 20m people
People who eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time, according to a preliminary study released last week that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, April 21 to 27, 2018.
The study found that people whose diets adhered more closely to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not closely follow the diet. In addition to fruit and vegetables, the DASH diet recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar. Studies have shown health benefits such as lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), along with lowering body weight.
“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, MD, 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.”
For the study, 964 participants with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of six-and-a-half years. They 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 diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.
Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the diets. People in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely. The odds of becoming depressed over time was 11 percent lower among the top group of DASH adherers versus the lowest group. On the other hand, the more closely people followed a Western diet–a diet that is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables–the more likely they were to develop depression.
Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.
“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.
Meanwhile, new research claims a gluten-free diet could help prevent nerve pain.
Researchers found a diet free of a protein found in wheat and some grains can ease the symptoms associated with gluten neuropathy, a nerve condition that causes weakness, numbness and pain, typically in the hands or feet.
Gluten sensitivity is best known for causing abdominal pain, bloating and gas, but for some, the food intolerance can also result in the nerve pain condition.
Experts from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom (UK), said their findings suggests a simple change in diet could nearly eliminate the painful symptoms.
“This study is promising because it shows that a gluten-free diet may help lower the risk of pain for people with gluten neuropathy,” said lead author Dr. Panagiotis Zis, of the University of Sheffield.
Researchers said gluten sensitivity has been associated with peripheral neuropathy — a condition in which the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord become damaged.
A 2015 study published in JAMA Neurology found 32 percent of people with peripheral neuropathy had gluten sensitivity.
A common cause of this condition is diabetes, but researchers said when a person has nerve pain that can’t otherwise be explained, and has a sensitivity to gluten, the diagnosis might be gluten neuropathy.
For the study, researchers collected data from 60 people with an average age of 70 who had gluten neuropathy.
They were asked about the intensity of their pain, their other neuropathy symptoms, their mental health and whether they followed a strict gluten-free diet.
Researchers found that people who were following a gluten-free diet were more likely to not have pain than those who did not adhere to a strict-gluten free diet.
About 56 percent of those without pain were on a gluten-free diet, compared to 21 percent of those with pain.
After adjusting for age, sex and mental health status, researchers found that people following the strict diet were 89 percent less likely to have pain with their neuropathy than people not following the diet.
Researchers also found that people with painful gluten neuropathy scored significantly worse on the mental health assessment, which has a range of zero to 100 with 100 being best.
Those with painful gluten neuropathy had an average score of 76, as opposed to the average score of 87 for those with painless gluten neuropathy.
This isn’t the first study to link a gluten-free diet to reduced pain.
A 2010 study published in Neurology found that after 15 neuropathy patients went on a gluten-free diet, 11 of them were able to stabilize their condition.
However, researchers of the current study said that while their research shows an association between a self-reported gluten-free diet and less pain, it does not show that one causes the other.
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