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A recent study run by scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada has confirmed a link between consumption of sugary foods (doughnuts, cakes, etc.) and fast food (French fries, hamburgers, pizza, etc.) and depression.
Published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, the study concludes that consumers who eat fast food and sugary foods, compared to those who eat little to none, are 51 percent more likely to develop depression. In addition, the results have shown that “the more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression,” according to Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, lead author of the study.
Participants in the study who ate great amounts of fast food and commercially baked goods were also revealed to have a greater chance of being single, less active, and have comparatively worse dietary habits, such as eating less nutritious foods like fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables, and olive oil. Other unhealthy characteristics of this group included smoking and working over 45 hours each week.
Those who do not consume commercially baked goods and fast food in large quantities are still at risk for developing mental illness. “Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression,” the university researcher from the Canary Islands noted.
The study sample consisted of some 8,964 participants that had no past history with either depression or mental illness and were members of the SUN Project (University of Navarra Diet and Lifestyle Tracking Program). They were studied for an average of 6 months, and 493 of them were diagnosed with depression or began to use antidepressants.
These new conclusions support the results of a previous SUN project from 2011, published in the PLoS One journal. The project recorded 657 new cases of depression out of the 12,059 people taking part in the study over the course of a little more than six months. A 42 percent increase in risks associated with fast food was noted, a finding lower than that found in the current study.
Sánchez-Villegas says, “Although more studies are necessary, the intake of this type of food should be controlled because of its implications on both health (obesity, cardiovascular diseases) and mental well-being.”
Over 120 million people suffer from depression worldwide, meaning it is one of the leading causes of disability across the globe. Furthermore, in countries with low and medium incomes, it is the most common cause. There is little information, however, about what role diet plays in developing different forms of depression.
Studies from the past have suggested that certain nutrients have a preventative role, such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and olive oil. Healthy diets, such as those common in the Mediterranean, have been linked to lower risks in developing depression.
While the exact link between fast food and sugary foods and depression is not yet known, the study will hopefully pave the way for other experiments revealing the exact causes that link bad diets and depression.