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Food as Medicine: Depression | This Diet Is Not "For the Dogs"

From eNewsletter 10/23/2019

DID YOU KNOW that consuming flavonoid-rich items such as apples and tea protects against cancer and heart disease, according to new research from Nature Communications?

People who habitually consumed moderate to high amounts of foods rich in flavonoids, compounds found in plant-based foods and drinks, were less likely to die from cancer or heart disease. The protective effect appeared to be strongest for those at high risk of chronic diseases due to cigarette smoking and those who drank more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day.

Participants consuming about 500 mg of total flavonoids each day had the lowest risk of a cancer or heart disease-related death.


Steve and Bonnie: You've heard the famous Hippocrates' quote: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food". We've shown you how this true in a myriad of ways. Recently, we came across a study that embodies Hippocrates prescient hypothesis beautifully.

According to the randomized controlled trial in PLOS One, simple dietary intervention is effective and feasible, even among young people with depressive symptoms that can frequently affect motivation. The authors suggest that by just giving some simple, succinct diet advice that is easy to follow, people with depression can make changes to their diet and, if they do, they see improvements in their depressive symptoms. The analysis included normal weight university students with an average age of 20 years. Participants had a score of 7 or more on the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 Depression subscale, which corresponds with moderate depression symptoms, and a score of more than 57 on the Dietary Fat and Sugar Screener, which suggests a poor diet. The intervention group received diet instructions via a short video related to dietary recommendations to reduce the risk of depression (for example, omega-3 fatty acids, cinnamon, and turmeric). Intervention group participants were given specific instructions on increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, protein (lean meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, legumes), unsweetened dairy, fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and spices (turmeric and cinnamon). They were told to decrease intake of refined carbohydrate, sugar, fatty or processed meats, and soft drinks. Researchers provided easy, low-cost recipes and time-saving tips. The placebo group simply continued with their regular lifestyle. After only three weeks, the intervention group reported improved results.

  • Participants reported consuming fewer processed foods and more fruits and vegetables as indicated by a spectrophotometer, which measures skin coloration, an indication of flavonoid consumption.

  • The depression subscale in the intervention group were reduced to nonclinically significant range, while still elevated in the placebo group.

  • Stress and anxiety levels were reduced in the intervention group, but not the placebo group.

This study is extra important because it was not restrictive or geared towards body mass loss. Studying dietary intervention in young adults is important as this population is at particularly high risk of depression and is still forming life-long dietary habits.


Bonnie: We love dogs.  Not only has research shown that people live longer when they have a dog, hospitals and nursing homes have found that dogs calm down their patients and bring them greater happiness.  There are even dogs that can detect cancer in people.  Because dogs can be such devoted companions and help the lives of humans, we need to give our dogs the best diets to preserve and optimize their health and happiness...This article is reserved for NCI Well Connect Members. You can get this article by signing up here. You can get our free eNewsletter by signing up at the top of our website.


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