Frailty, a recognizable state of increased vulnerability resulting from a decline in function across multiple physiological systems, affects 10–15% of older adults and often co-occurs with other health conditions, like depression.
In a study from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere, scientists found a link between depression, diet, and the development of frailty.
Diet is thought to be a major contributor to frailty development.
Previous studies established a link between an inflammatory diet—including artificial trans fats (like partially hydrogenated oil), refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats—and the risk of developing frailty.
In the current study, researchers aimed to determine if individuals with depressive symptoms are more vulnerable to frailty development in response to dietary inflammation.
They used data from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort. The 1,701 non-frail participants reported their diet and depressive symptoms at baseline and were followed for ~11 years when frailty status was reassessed.
The team found an association between an inflammatory diet and increased odds of frailty appeared somewhat stronger among those with depressive symptoms.
They suggest that since individuals with depressive symptoms typically have higher levels of inflammation, adding dietary inflammation on top of that accelerates the development of frailty.
The team says this study found that depressive symptoms may exacerbate the development of frailty in response to consuming an inflammatory diet.
This suggests that consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds (e.g., fiber and plant-based compounds called flavonoids) may help prevent the development of frailty.
The results also suggest that when middle-aged and older adults consume a pro-inflammatory diet, they are more likely to newly develop depressive symptoms and frailty at the same time rather than develop either condition alone.
For those with depression, it may be even more critical to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber, flavonoids, and other dietary antioxidants.
If you care about depression, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to a higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia.
The study was conducted by Courtney L Millar et al and published in The Journal of Gerontology: Series A.
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