Dietary flavonoid intake and risk of incident depression in midlife and older women

Shun-Chiao Chang, Aedin Cassidy, Walter C. Willett, Eric B. Rimm, Eilis J. O'Reilly, Olivia I. Okereke

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Background: The impact of dietary flavonoid intakes on risk of depression is unclear. Objective: We prospectively examined associations between estimated habitual intakes of dietary flavonoids and depression risk. Design: We followed 82,643 women without a previous history of depression at baseline from the Nurses’ Health Study [(NHS) aged 53–80 y] and the Nurses’ Health Study II [(NHSII) aged 36–55 y]. Intakes of total flavonoids and subclasses (flavonols, flavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymeric flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins) were calculated from validated food-frequency questionnaires collected every 2–4 y. Depression was defined as physician- or clinician-diagnosed depression or antidepressant use and was self-reported in response to periodic questionnaires. Cox proportional hazards models were performed to examine associations. Results: A total of 10,752 incident depression cases occurred during a 10-y follow-up. Inverse associations between flavonol, flavone, and flavanone intakes and depression risk were observed. Pooled multivariable-adjusted HRs (95% CIs) were 0.93 (0.88, 0.99), 0.92 (0.86, 0.98), and 0.90 (0.85, 0.96) when comparing the highest (quintile 5) with the lowest (quintile 1) quintiles, respectively, with evidence of linear trends across quintiles (P-trend = 0.0004–0.08). In flavonoid-rich food-based analyses, the HR was 0.82 (95% CI: 0.74, 0.91) among participants who consumed ≥2 servings citrus fruit or juices/d compared with <1 serving/wk. In the NHS only, total flavonoids, polymers, and proanthocyanidin intakes showed significant (9–12%) lower depression risks. In analyses among late-life NHS participants (aged ≥65 y at baseline or during follow-up), for whom we were able to incorporate depressive symptoms into the outcome definition, higher intakes of all flavonoid subclasses except for flavan-3-ols were associated with significantly lower depression risk; flavones and proanthocyanidins showed the strongest associations (HR for both: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.77, 0.90). Conclusions: Higher flavonoid intakes may be associated with lower depression risk, particularly among older women. Further studies are needed to confirm these associations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-714
Number of pages11
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • depression
  • epidemiology
  • flavonoids
  • geriatrics
  • Nurses’ Health Study
  • prospective cohort

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