Bidirectional associations between food groups and depressive symptoms: longitudinal findings from the Invecchiare in Chianti (InCHIANTI) study

Liset E M Elstgeest, Marjolein Visser, Brenda W J H Penninx, Marco Colpo, Stefania Bandinelli, Ingeborg A Brouwer

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This study investigated bidirectional associations between intake of food groups and depressive symptoms in 1058 Italian participants (aged 20-102 years) of the Invecchiare in Chianti study. Dietary intake, assessed with a validated FFQ, and depressive symptoms, measured with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D), were assessed at baseline and after 3, 6 and 9 years. Associations of repeated measurements of intakes of thirteen food groups with 3-year changes in depressive symptoms, and vice versa, were analysed using linear mixed models and logistic generalised estimating equations. Fish intake was inversely (quartile (Q)4 v. Q1, B=-0·97, 95 % CI -1·74, -0·21) and sweet food intake positively (Q4 v. Q1, B=1·03, 95 % CI 0·25, 1·81) associated with subsequent CES-D score. In the other direction, higher CES-D scores were associated with decreases in intakes of vegetables (ratio: 0·995, 95 % CI 0·990, 0·999) and red and processed meat (B=-0·006, 95 % CI -0·010, -0·001), an increase in dairy product intake (ratio: 1·008, 95 % CI 1·004, 1·013), and increasing odds of eating savoury snacks (OR: 1·012, 95 % CI 1·000, 1·024). Fruit, nuts and legumes, potatoes, wholegrain bread, olive oil, sugar-sweetened beverages, and coffee and tea were not significantly associated in either direction. Our study confirmed bidirectional associations between food group intakes and depressive symptoms. Fish and sweet food intakes were associated with 3-year improvement and deterioration in depressive symptoms, respectively. Depressive symptoms were associated with 3-year changes in vegetable, meat, dairy product and savoury snack intakes. Trials are necessary to examine the causal associations between food groups and depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-450
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


  • Diet: Depression
  • Invecchiare in Chianti study
  • Older adults
  • Reverse causality


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