Pasta, fatty red meat and soda have all been linked to an increased risk for depression among women, indicates research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

According to the report, the inflammation caused by these foods is now being indicated in

disease processes beyond obesity.

Diet, inflammation and depression

Researchers headed up by study coauthor Michel Lucas, PhD, of the the Harvard School of Public Health, indicate the link between pasta, fatty red meat, soda and depression is not entirely clear, but more and more evidence suggests diet plays a significant role in depression risk as a direct result of inflammation.

This is not the first research project to link food to symptoms of depression, though it is the most complete.

In September 2013, research conducted at the University of Eastern Finland found a healthy diet was associated with a decreased depression risk in men.

“The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention,” Anu Ruusunen, MSc, who presented the September results in her doctoral thesis in the field of nutritional epidemiology, told Live Science.

In her study, Ruusunen found a diet high in folate, consisting primarily of berries, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and liver was consistently linked to lower depression risk.

On the contrary, a diet high in sausages, processed meats, sugar-containing desserts and snacks, sugary drinks, manufactured foods, French rolls and baked or processed potatoes was linked to an increased risk of depression in men.

Depression in women

Depression is linked to an inflammatory response

The Mediterranean diet is considered a well-balanced and healthy meal program. (Shutterstock)

The results of Ruusunen’s research are supported by the most recent findings in women.

Out of a test pool of more than 40,000 females who had no sign of clinical depression at the start of the research, those who sipped soda, ate fatty red meat, or consumed refined grains (like pasta, white bread, crackers, or chips) on a daily basis were 29 to 41 percent more likely to be diagnosed or treated for depression than women in the study who ate healthier.

What’s more, women in the high risk group for depression tested the highest for the three blood biomarkers associated with inflammation.

This correlation between inflammation, food and depression is significant because previous research has classified depression as an inflammatory disease, but the cause of such inflammation has remained mysterious.

Experts indicate there are more complex, emotional and psychological factors at work in most cases of depression; however, the role inflammation plays in the body may offer a means to treat and help prevent this disease.

“We now know that depression is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response and activation of cell-mediated immunity, as well as activation of the compensatory anti-inflammatory reflex system,” wrote researchers in a a study published in BMC Medical. “It is similarly accompanied by increased oxidative and nitrosative stress (O&NS), which contribute to neuroprogression in the disorder.”

And just as certain foods were found to contribute to depression in women, the most recent study found coffee, olive oil, wine, and vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens consumed on a daily basis helped keep depression at bay.

These depression-fighting foods are considered components of the Mediterranean diet, a highly recommended, balanced nutrition plan.