Higher consumption of low-fat dairy may reduce depressive symptoms, finds study

More than just a low mood, depression is a serious mental health disorder. Although treatment for depression is often a combination of medicine and therapy, a few changes in one’s food habits may help to treat depression. A nutritious diet consisting of Omega-3 sources such as dark chocolate, fatty fish and green leafy vegetables, or food rich in antioxidants such as broccoli and strawberries, combined with regular physical activity not only helps one maintain a healthy weight but also helps to maintain a healthy life.

While no specific diet has been proved to relieve depression, a new study published recently in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that people who consumed a higher amount of low-fat milk and yogurt were less likely to develop depressive symptoms.

The study involved 1,159 Japanese adults (897 men and 262 women) aged 19-83 years, out of which about 31 percent of men and nearly 32 percent of women were depressed. The goal of the study was to examine the association between the frequency of low and high-fat dairy consumption and depressive symptoms. For the study, researchers utilized the self-rating depression scale involving 20 questions used to distinguish between depressive and non-depressive symptoms.

Professor Ryoichi Nagatomi from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and colleagues in Japan and China examined the association between high and low-fat dairy consumption and depressive symptoms such as anxiety, exhaustion, sadness and hopelessness.

More studies needed

As per the results, people who consumed low-fat dairy between one and four times a week reported less depressive symptoms. Researchers concluded that higher frequency of low-fat dairy consumption might be associated in lessening depressive symptoms. The association observed did not change even post adjustment of a number of profoundly confounding variables such as age, gender, lifestyle, health and nutritional status. Commenting on the findings, the researchers said, “The current results indicate that a higher frequency of low-fat dairy consumption may be associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.”

In addition, the researchers also found no association between whole-fat milk consumption and depressive symptoms. According to them, it could be due to the presence of trans-fatty acid in whole milk fat that canceled out the anti-depressive effect of tryptophan, another milk component.

However, the authors emphasized the need for further studies to pinpoint mechanisms underlying link between low-fat dairy intake and lower risk of depression. The study has its limitations. It did not involve other dairy products such as butter and cheese. Besides, the researchers were also unclear whether milk or yogurt had a stronger influence.

Road to recovery

Depression, a worldwide phenomenon, is a mental illness characterized by negative thoughts and behaviors. Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2015, more than 16 million people aged 18 years or older in the country, representing 6.7 percent of all adult population, had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.

Depression can disrupt one’s quality of life and may even result in substance abuse and poor personal and professional relations. Although treatment for depression often involves a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments, nutrition too can bring a marked difference in one’s symptoms. However, if a person is grappling with depression or any other mental disorder, it is always advisable to seek immediate professional help.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any kind of mental health disorder, contact experts at the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to find the right mental health programs for your illnesses. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our representatives to know about the best mental health counselors and mental health residential facilities near you.