Depression Risk Higher With Trans Fats, Lower With Olive Oil Consumption
You can read about their study, where they followed over 12,000 volunteers for an average of six years, online in the 26 January issue of PLoS One.
First author Dr Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and colleagues, said the findings held even after accounting for overall diet and lifestyle.
The study participants are members of the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project, a multi-purpose Spanish cohort comprising graduates of the University of Navarra and other institutions, plus registered professionals from other parts of Spain.
The project is ongoing and started recruiting in 1999. All the data is collected by questionnaires sent out every two years. The average age of the participants at the start of the study was 37.5 years.
For this study, Sánchez-Villegas and colleagues were interested in data collected at enrolment via a 136-item validated food frequency questionnaire from which they could estimate the consumption of fatty acids (saturated fatty acids, poly-unsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and trans-unsaturated fatty acids), plus culinary fats such as olive oil, seed oils, butter and margarine.
From the questionnaires on medical information, the researchers counted cases of depression reported at enrolment and over the follow up. For a case to be counted as depression, the respondent had to have reported being newly clinically diagnosed by a doctor or prescribed antidepressant drugs.
Although none of the volunteers reported suffering from depression at the start of the project, by the end, 657 new cases were reported.
The researchers found when they compared participants who did and those who did not have a high consumption of trans fats in their diet, the ones who did had a 48% higher risk of developing depression.
They also found a dose-response relationship, that is the more trans fats consumed, the higher the risk.
On the effect of polyunsaturated fats (a rich source is fish and vegetable oils) and olive oil, Dr Miguel Angel Martínez-González, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Navarra, who directs the SUN Project, said:
"In fact, we discovered that this type of healthier fats, together with olive oil, are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression."
The researchers concluded that they found a "detrimental relationship" between trans fat intake and depression, and "weak inverse associations" for mono- and polyunsaturated fats and olive oil.
As numerous studies have already shown that trans fats and saturated fats are tied to risk of cardiovascular diseases, they added that:
"These findings suggest that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common nutritional determinants related to subtypes of fat intake."
The findings also appear to strengthen the argument that the higher rates of depression in northern Europe as opposed to the southern countries where a Mediterranean diet prevails, are food-related.
Except that more recently, experts have noted that rates of depression are rising, to the point that estimates suggest about 150 million suffer from the disease worldwide.
Sánchez Villegas told the press we have to consider the possibility that this could be due to:
"... radical changes in the sources of fats consumed in Western diets, where we have substituted certain types of beneficial fats -- polyunsaturated and monounsaturated in nuts, vegetable oils and fish -- for the saturated and trans-fats found in meats, butter and other products such as mass-produced pastries and fast food."
Martínez-González pointed out that despite the fact the population they studied had a low average intake of trans fats (where it comprised only 0.4% of the total energy ingested by the participants) "we observed an increase in the risk of suffering depression of nearly 50%."
The effect of these findings for other countries with a higher intake of trans fats, such as the US where the percentage of energy derived from trans fats is about 2.5%, is likely to be even more important, he added.
Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Depression: The SUN Project."
Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, Lisa Verberne, Jokin De Irala, Miguel Ruíz-Canela, Estefanía Toledo, Lluis Serra-Majem, Miguel Angel Martínez-González
PLoS ONE, 6(1): e16268; published online 26 Jan 2011.
Additional source: Science Daily (press release, 26 Jan 2011).
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