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Low-fat dairy linked to reduced depression risk, new study suggests

low-fat dairy

Low-fat dairy could actually lower your chances of developing depression, according to a new research.

Dairy consumption has long been associated with a multitude of physical health benefits. Many people choose low-fat dairy products to help keep their waist lines in check. Now, this new research will definitely give them more reasons to smile.

In a study involving 1,159 Japanese adults, scientists found that those who consumed a greater amount of low-fat milk and yogurt were less likely to develop depression symptoms, compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these dairy foods.
low-fat dairy

About depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the U.S.

National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in 2015, around 16.1 million U.S. adults had experienced at least one incident of major depression during the previous 12 months.

Symptoms of depression may vary from person to person.
low-fat dairy

The study

Study co-author professor Ryoichi Nagatomi of Tohoku University and colleagues in Japan and China studied the link between whole and low-fat dairy consumption and depressive symptoms such as sadness, exhaustion, helplessness, anxiety, and hopelessness.

This is the first of its kind study that investigates the link between different types of dairy products (whole fat and low fat) and the occurrence of depression.

For their study, the team recruited 1,159 adults (897 men and 262 women) from Japan aged between 19 and 83 years. Of these adults, 31.2 percent of men and 31.7 percent of women had depressive symptoms.
low-fat dairy

Through a questionnaire, the participants were asked how often they consumed whole or low-fat dairy such as, milk and yogurt. Researchers assessed the participants’ depressive symptoms by using the self-rating depression scale. The scale consisted of 20 questions and is a tool to differentiate people with and without depression.

The intake of butter, cheese, and other dairy products was not reported.

Low-fat dairy reduces depression

The findings showed that adults who consumed low-fat dairy products between 1 and 4 times a week were less depressed. The correlation remained even after accounting for potential confounding factors such as age, sex, nutrition status, health status, and life style.

“The current results indicate that a higher frequency of low-fat dairy consumption may be associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms,”reports the authors.

The study found no link between whole-fat milk consumption and depressive symptoms. The researchers hypothesize that this is because trans-fatty acid contained in whole fat milk, which is linked to depression, were offset by another milk component called tryptophan.

The researchers conclude that further studies are warranted to identify the mechanisms underlying the connection between low-fat dairy intake and a reduced risk of depression.

The study was published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

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Salahuddin Ahmed is a freelance medical writer and blogger, who has been writing about medicine and health for more than a decade. A former New York transplant, he now lives in his native Dhaka. He received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana and a diploma on eTechnology from NIIT, Dhaka. A voracious eater, Salahuddin only dines at restaurants that offer free refills on rice.