A new study has found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help lower the risk of depression.

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the modern world, with around 16.2 million adult Americans suffering from the condition.

There has been a sharp rise in major depression, and at the current rate of increase it will be the second most disabling condition in the world by 2020. The first most disabling condition is heart disease.

• People of all ages, backgrounds, lifestyles and nationalities suffer from major depression, with a few exceptions..

• Up to 20 per cent of people experience symptoms of depression

• 10 times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945

• The average age that major depression first strikes is between 25-29

There are several risk factors for depression, such as traumatic or stressful experiences, physical illness and family history, but the new study suggests the risk of suffering from depression may be lowered just by eating better.

The Study

Rush University Medical Center ran a study of 964 adults who were an average age of 81. They followed the subjects for an average of 6.5 years.

All subjects were asked to complete dietary questionnaires to establish their adherence to various diets, including the Western diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.

The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetable and whole grains, but low in sugar and saturated fats. This diet was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to try and lower blood pressure. There are several studies that show the DASH diet has been successfully linked to lower blood pressure and lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood.

The study found that those who stuck to the DASH diet were 11 per cent less likely to develop depression than those who had the lowest adherence.

The Western diet had the opposite effect. This diet is high in saturated fats and low in fruits, veg and whole grains. The more closely this diet was followed, the higher the risk of the subject developing depression.

Dr.Cherian and her colleagues say they need to do further research, as the study only shows an association between the DASH diet and lower depression risk – it is unable to prove cause and effect.

If their research determines that there is a direct link between the DASH diet and lower incidences of depression, then this eating plan could be the breakthrough we need to help prevent one of the most common mental health disorders around.