Women whose diet includes more foods that trigger inflammation—like sugar-sweetened or diet soft drinks, refined grains, red meat, and margarine—and fewer foods that restrain inflammation—like wine, coffee, olive oil, and green leafy and yellow vegetables—have up to a 41% greater risk of being diagnosed with depression than those who eat mostly the less inflammatory diet, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

The study was published online October 1, 2013 in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. It is one of the most comprehensive studies to date to link certain foods to inflammation and depression.

“It is important to consider the overall diet relationship with disease risk, and not only isolated nutrients or foods,” said lead author Michel Lucas, visiting scientist in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. “Foods are consumed in combination and their combined effects cannot be predicted from single food analysis. Our approach allowed us to examine the combined actions of food, better reflecting dietary complexity, and improves our understanding of the relationship between diet and disease risk.”

Previous research suggested a link between inflammation and depression, but the association between inflammatory dietary pattern and depression was unknown. Although some inflammation helps the immune system fight disease and injury, studies have linked excessive inflammation to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions.

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