High-Sugar, High-Saturated-Fat Dietary Patterns Are Not Associated with Depressive Symptoms in Middle-Aged Adults in a Prospective Study

Esther Vermeulen, Anika Knüppel, Martin J. Shipley, Ingeborg A. Brouwer, Marjolein Visser, Tasnime Akbaraly, Eric J. Brunner, Mary Nicolaou

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Background: The consumption of unhealthy "Western" dietary patterns has been previously associated with depressive symptoms in different populations.

Objective: We examined whether high-sugar and high-saturated-fat dietary patterns are associated with depressive symptoms over 5 y in a British cohort of men and women.

Methods: We used data from the Whitehall II study in 5044 individuals (aged 35-55 y). Diet was assessed at phase 7 (2003-2004) using a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Dietary patterns were derived by using reduced rank regression with sugar, saturated fat, and total fat as response variables. The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale was used to assess depressive symptoms (CES-D sum score ≥16 and/or use of antidepressant medication) at phase 7 and at phase 9 (2008-2009). We applied logistic regression analyses to test the association between dietary patterns and depressive symptoms. All analyses were stratified by sex.

Results: In total, 398 cases of recurrent and 295 cases of incident depressive symptoms were observed. We identified 2 dietary patterns: a combined high-sugar and high-saturated-fat (HSHF) and a high-sugar dietary pattern. No association was observed between the dietary patterns and either incidence of or recurrent depressive symptoms in men or women. For example, higher consumption of the HSHF dietary pattern was not associated with recurrent depressive symptoms in men (model 3, quartile 4: OR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.36, 1.23; P-trend = 0.13) or in women (model 3, quartile 4: OR: 1.26; 95% CI: 0.58, 2.77; P-trend = 0.97).

Conclusion: Among middle-aged men and women living in the United Kingdom, dietary patterns containing high amounts of sugar and saturated fat are not associated with new onset or recurrence of depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1598-1604
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of nutrition
Issue number10
Early online date3 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • depressive symptoms
  • dietary patterns
  • fat
  • reduced rank regression
  • sugar


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