Older adults suffering from depression may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of the inflammatory diet that increase the risk of frailty.

This is according to a new study published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, which found a link between the diet, depression, and the development of frailty.

A recognizable state of increased vulnerability that leads to the decline of multiple physiological systems, frailty affects about 10-15% of older adults in the U.S. and often co-occurs with a number of other health conditions, most commonly depression.

Previous studies established a link between the risk of frailty development with an inflammatory diet filled with artificial trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. The new study marked the first one that tried to understand if there’s a connection between the diet’s inflammatory effects and depression and frailty.

The researchers utilized data from Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort to determine if individuals with depressive symptoms are more vulnerable to frailty due to dietary inflammation. Researchers gathered 1,701 non-frail participants and assessed their diet and depressive symptoms. They were reassessed after 11 years to check for frailty status.

The researchers found that having an inflammatory diet increased the odds of frailty among the participants exhibiting depressive symptoms.

They then hypothesized that this was because adding dietary inflammation on top of the higher levels of inflammation that individuals with depressive symptoms already have accelerated the development of frailty.

“This study found that depressive symptoms may exacerbate the development of frailty in response to consuming an inflammatory diet. This suggests that consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds (e.g., fiber and plant-based compounds called flavonoids) may help prevent the development of frailty,” said study author Courtney L. Millar, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow, Marcus Institute of Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School.

“Our exploratory data also suggests that when middle-aged and older adults consume a pro-inflammatory diet, they are more likely to newly develop depressive symptoms and frailty at the same time rather than develop either condition alone,” she added.

According to Dr. Millar, increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables rich in fiber, flavonoids, and antioxidants should help people with depression.