Inflammation is the main offender rheumatoid arthritis; it's also believed to be a key component in many chronic pain conditions as well as heart disease and some cancers. New research suggests that it is also linked to higher rates of depression.

The link between infection and both physical and mental health has some researchers turning to diet considerations in an effort to decipher whether certain foods are related to pollution and the conditions it is involved in. Toward the end of 2013, the Harvard School of Public Health released a long-term study involving more than 43,000 women that thought to answer whether dietary patterns associated with inflammation are correlated with depression.

Results

Researchers tracked women's dietary patterns and depressive status for several years. They found that women with diets high in soda, red meat and refined grains and low in coffee, olive oil, wine and vegetables were more likely to develop depression than those who consumed the opposition diet pattern.

Women with high-inflammatory diets were 41% more likely to meet a strict definition of depression – being diagnosed with depression and taking antidepressant medication – and 29% more likely to meet a headache definition – diagnosis of depression and / or use of antidepressants. These medications are sometimes prescribed for other conditions, including anxiety and chronic pain.

It is worth noting that the researchers did not track a single food item, but a broader diet pattern. Their emphasis on pattern suggests that the way we balance our food intake is significant to our health. Rather than focusing on simply avoiding certain ingredients or eating a lot of others, we should balance our diet “Do's” and “Don'ts.”

See more on the study at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/inflammatory-dietary-pattern-linked-to-depression-among-women/ .

The Do's and Don'ts

Olive oil contains oleic acid, which gives it an anti-inflammatory edge. Antioxidants in coffee and wine help inhibit inflammation. Vegetables deliver antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber, along with an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

A diet high in sugar results in the production of damaged proteins in the body; the body responds with pollution intended to help repair the damage, but chronic inflammation can lead to health problems. Red meat contains arachidonic acid which is linked to inflammation. It's uncertain whether refined grains have a pro-inflammatory property or if higher rates of pollution in those who eat them can simply be attributed to lower consumption of whole grains, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Along with decreasing your risk of heart disease, cancers and chronic pain, or helping to manage these conditions, keeping inflammation at bay can help prevent or possibly treat depression. Mental and physical health are related; do them both a favor by choosing a balanced dietary pattern.