Inflammatory diet increases the risk of frailty in people with depression

inflammatory diet
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Researchers at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research have discovered that eating an inflammatory diet may exacerbate frailty among people with depression.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, identified a link between depression, an inflammatory diet, and the development of frailty. The findings may help to design dietary interventions to mitigate the conditions.

What is frailty?

Frailty is defined as a recognisable state of increased vulnerability caused by multiple physiological systems gradually declining in function. Frailty impacts between 10 to 15% of older adults and usually co-occur with other health conditions. Prior studies suggested that diet is a major contributor to frailty development.

An inflammatory diet includes foods that contain artificial trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oil, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. Although previous studies have established a link between an inflammatory diet and frailty development, this is the first to analyse the relationship between dietary inflammation, depression and frailty.

Impacts of an inflammatory diet

For the study, the researchers employed data from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort to understand if people with depressive symptoms are more vulnerable to frailty due to an inflammatory diet.

The study involved 1,701 non-frail participants who reported their diet and symptoms of depression at baseline and were then followed for 11 years, and their frailty status was reassessed. The results showed that the association between an inflammatory diet and the risk of frailty was higher among people with depressive symptoms.

The team theorised that this might be due to people with depression usually having higher levels of inflammation, meaning that consuming an inflammatory diet may accelerate the development of frailty.

Courtney L Millar, PhD, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Marcus Institute of Aging Research and lead author of the study, commented: “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., fibre and plant-based compounds called flavonoids) may help prevent the development of frailty.

“Our exploratory data also suggests 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.

“This study contributes to the understanding of the relationship between dietary inflammation, depression, and frailty. For those with depression, it may be even more important to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibre, flavonoids as well as other dietary antioxidants.”

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