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Inflammation may have link with increase in depression

By Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden Published: November 13, 2012

This is intriguing data, but drugs such as infliximab are very costly and also carry the risk of significant side effects, so they would not be first-line medications for depression. Fortunately, there are much easier ways to reduce inflammation, including — you guessed it — improving your nutrition and getting regular exercise. In fact, a diet high in healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit and fish — similar to what we call the Mediterranean diet — has been shown to reduce the risk of depression.

A five-year study of 3,500 middle-aged adults published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2009 showed that people who ate a diet high in processed foods, including refined carbohydrates, sugary desserts, fried foods and processed meats, had a 58 percent higher risk of depression compared with those who followed a healthy Mediterranean-type diet.

And if you just can't give up those steaks and hamburgers, take heart. Another study from the University of Melbourne in Australia showed that a healthy whole-foods diet, including grass-fed beef, fish, vegetables, fruit and whole grains, reduced the risk of depression. Pastured grass-fed beef, unlike cattle raised in feedlots, is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in the health of your brain.

Should you or your loved ones suffer from persistent depression, it's important to see your doctor. But in the meantime, this new research is confirming what some scientists have speculated for years — what we eat and how we take care of ourselves can play a huge role in our mental well-being. And that means less reliance on expensive medications — as well as lower health care costs — for you.

Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program.

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