It's not just about long-term physical well-being.
Researchers in Britain, Spain, and Australia, have linked unhealthy eating (specifically of junk food) to greater risk of developing clinical depression.
The study, which looked at data from 41 previous studies, was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Health officials overseas are being asked to consider giving dietary advice to patients who face depression and other mental health issues following the new research.
While it's not clear that eating junk food causes depression, their research shows that people who frequently consume high-fat and heavily processed foods are at much greater risk of being diagnosed with chronic depression. And they theorize ways in which junk food could actually be responsible.
There is a bright spot in the research, however. Those who follow what is often termed a Mediterranean diet, consisting of mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean protein, "is associated with reduced risk of depressive symptoms or clinical depression," according to the study.
The review explicitly implicates unhealthy foods that lead to chronic inflammation as associated with a higher risk of depression. Dr. Camille Lassale, the study's lead author, posits that, since high fat processed foods can lead to inflammation across the digestive system, eventually pro-inflammatory molecules may travel to the brain and affect neurotransmitters in charge of regulating your mood.
The link between poor dietary choices and chronic depression isn't merely an association, the Guardian reports. In Britain alone, one in six people will or are currently experiencing depression, as well as some form of anxiety.
“Poor diet may increase the risk of depression as these are results from longitudinal studies which excluded people with depression at the beginning of the study. Therefore the studies looked at how diet at baseline is related to new cases of depression,” Lassale told the Guardian.
More scientific research on diet and holistic health:
- Your Body Treats Fast Food Like a Bacterial Infection
- Study Finds Links Between Household Disinfectants, Obesity
- Low-Carb Diets Work, But They Aren't Necessarily Healthy
- Study Suggests Dietary Habits Affect Mood Differently as You Age
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the United Kingdom, said that more doctors are asking patients to change lifestyle habits and diets in new approaches to managing chronic diseases—especially because of the positive side-effects seen in mental health.
“This large-scale study provides further supportive evidence that eating a healthy diet can improve our mood and help give us more energy," Stokes-Lampard told the Guardian. "It adds to the growing body of research which shows that what we eat may have an impact on our mental health.