Fruit a depression-buster for women

Eating two or more pieces of fruit a day can help women fight off depression

Women who eat fewer than two serves of fruit a day face a greater risk of developing depression, University of Queensland research shows.

UQ School of Population Health’s Professor Gita Mishra said the findings of a six-year study of more than 6000 Australian women revealed a clear link between fruit consumption and the development of depressive symptoms.

“We found that women who ate at least two servings of fruit a day were less likely to suffer from depression than women who ate fewer servings, even after taking into account other factors such as smoking, alcohol, body mass index, physical activity, marital status and education,” Professor Mishra said.

“We also found that eating two or more servings of fruit a day protected women from developing depression in the future.”

Professor Mishra said researchers had not found a link between vegetable intake and depression.

“More research is needed on the different effects of fruit and vegetables, but this may be because fruit has higher levels of anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, such as resveratrol, which is not found in vegetables.”

She said the findings highlighted the importance of a diet high in fruit to avoid the development of depression in middle age.

“Women experience depression at about twice the rate of men, and the rate of depression is growing rapidly.

“By 2030 it is expected to be one of the world’s top three diseases, making it a priority area for public health interventions.”

Researchers surveyed participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, an Australian Government-funded project that is one of the world’s largest and longest-running studies of women’s health and wellbeing.

The research is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a paper by Professor Mishra, UQ’s Professor Annette Dobson and the University of Sydney’s Dr Seema Mihrshahi.

Study reveals truth about diet in pregnancy

Researchers from the University of Newcastle have found there is no universal consensus on what constitutes an optimal diet for women before, during and after pregnancy, despite a glut of nutritional information being available.

Dietitian and PhD candidate, Ellie Gresham, led a team conducting the largest ever meta-analysis and systematic review of international research trials pertaining to dietary interventions for expectant mothers, dating from 1978 to 2011.

The initial search found more than 5,000 relevant articles, of which more than 2,300 were exhaustively screened. Included were studies that provided dietary counselling and/or food interventions. The collective results were then used to determine the overall effect of diet on neonatal and infant health.

“Our aim was to analyse whether dietary interventions had an effect on pregnancy, neonatal and infant outcomes,” Ms Gresham said.

“We found there was a positive effect on birth weight and a reduced incidence of low birth weight using whole foods and fortified foods as dietary interventions. Fortified foods included foods and drinks with higher levels of nutrients.”

Results of the review have now been published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, accompanied by an editorial from researchers at the UK’s University of Southampton Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.

Evidence shows small babies are more likely to start life in neonatal intensive care, and maternal nutritional status can have lasting effects on offspring health and wellbeing.

“It’s an important time for both mother and child but we still can’t pinpoint what is optimal,” Ms Gresham said.

“While there are national dietary guidelines we can’t say to expectant mums that if you follow this particular diet you will have a healthy baby.

“From here, more high-quality research is needed for pre-conception diets, through pregnancy and lactation phases and finally subsequent pregnancies. This will help determine the most crucial times to pay attention to diet.”

Low birth weight affects approximately 8-10 per cent of Australia’s newborns. The research found no significant effects on other outcomes such as placental weight, head circumference and infant deaths.
Editorial author, Professor Keith Godfrey, said the review was the largest of its kind to date.

“The review provides some clues to help improve the health of the next generation, and also highlights the challenges in providing sound advice for pregnant mothers, Professor Godfrey said.

“While it is clear that diet in pregnancy can affect immediate outcomes, far less is known about diet around the time of conception or the consequences for the child’s health in later life.”

Ellie Gresham is a member of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing. The centre works in conjunction with HMRI’s Public Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

For more information on this publication, visit: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/5/1298.abstract

Young women becoming more active, and more stressed

Young Australian women are fatter, fitter and more fraught today than they were in the mid-’90s, according to the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health researchers.

The 17-year study, led by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Julie Byles and University of Queensland’s Professor Gita Mishra, found that 70 per cent of women aged between 18 and 23 in 2010 met Australian guidelines for physical activity, compared with 59 per cent in 1996.

Professor Mishra said that while this finding was encouraging, the percentage of overweight and obese young women was increasing.

“In 2013, 33 per cent of the young women surveyed were overweight or obese, compared with 20 per cent in 1996,” she said.

Professor Julie Byles said researchers also found that the prevalence of stress in this age group was higher than in the previous generation of young women surveyed in 1996. She said about half the young women surveyed said they had experienced high or very high psychological stress in the past year.

“The rate was even higher, 55 per cent, for women aged between 18 and 20 years, which probably reflects the stressful transition period between adolescence and young adulthood,” Professor Byles said. “Worryingly, we also found that 59 per cent of these young women had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year, while 45 per cent had engaged in self-harming behaviour.”

Other notable findings in the report titled Health and wellbeing of women aged 18 to 23 in 2013 and 1996:Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health include:

Physical health: More than one in five young women reported frequent severe tiredness, back pain, headache or period pain, while one in four reported trouble sleeping – double the incidence reported in 1996. About one in three young women had low iron levels, and one in 25 young women had asthma.

Smoking: From 1996 to 2013, the percentage of women aged 18 to 23 who had never smoked increased from 53 per cent to 63 per cent, while there was also a substantial decline in the percentage of current smokers from one in three (32 per cent) to less than one in five (19 per cent).

Drinking: In 2013, one in four young women (26 per cent) drank alcohol weekly or more frequently (compared with 29 per cent in 1996). There was little change in drinking patterns since the 1996 survey.

Violence: One in five young women had experienced physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months while 56 per cent had experienced either form of violence at some point in their lives.

Bullying: One in five young women said they were bullied in the past 12 months while 70 per cent had been bullied at some point in their lives.

Intimate partner violence: The percentage of women who had been in a violent relationship had increased to 13 per cent in 2013, up from 11 per cent in 1996.

Impact of education: Women with less than a year 12 education fared worse in almost all categories surveyed – reporting poorer mental health; higher incidence of being bullied; more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence; more likely to have not used contraception and been pregnant at some stage; less likely to have received the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.