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Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;98(3):813-20. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052761. Epub 2013 Jul 24.

Prospective study on long-term dietary patterns and incident depression in middle-aged and older women.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA. pchocano@hsph.harvard.edu



Although individual nutrients have been investigated in relation to depression risk, little is known about the overall role of diet in depression.


We examined whether long-term dietary patterns derived from a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) predict the development of depression in middle-aged and older women.


We conducted a prospective study in 50,605 participants (age range: 50-77 y) without depression in the Nurses' Health Study at baseline (1996) who were followed until 2008. Long-term diet was assessed by using FFQs every 4 y since 1986. Prudent (high in vegetables) and Western (high in meats) patterns were identified by using a principal component analysis. We used 2 definitions for clinical depression as follows: a strict definition that required both a reported clinical diagnosis and use of antidepressants (3002 incident cases) and a broad definition that further included women who reported either a clinical diagnosis or antidepressant use (7413 incident cases).


After adjustment for age, body mass index, and other potential confounders, no significant association was shown between the diet patterns and depression risk under the strict definition. Under the broad definition, women with the highest scores for the Western pattern had 15% higher risk of depression (95% CI: 1.04, 1.27; P-trend = 0.01) than did women with the lowest scores, but after additional adjustment for psychological scores at baseline, results were no longer significant (RR: 1.09; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.21; P-trend = 0.08).


Overall, results of this large prospective study do not support a clear association between dietary patterns from factor analysis and depression risk.

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