Nutrition

Depression: a disease linked to junk food

Food has a huge influence on our health, both physical and mental. This concept is well illustrated by a study which shows that trans fats and saturated fats, both known to promote heart disease, also increase the risk of depression.

Do not confuse depression with depression: life is filled with difficult events and trials of all kinds and it is completely normal to feel sad or unhappy on occasion. Fortunately, we generally have a good ability to bounce back and these bouts of depression usually disappear after a short time.

In contrast, depression is a real mental illness in which these feelings of sadness last for several weeks and become so severe that they end up profoundly disrupting the life of the affected person. Depressed people often experience feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lack of interest in the outside world, disturbances in sleep or appetite, loss of energy or, in more severe cases, thoughts morbid or suicidal. Far from being an exception, depression is on the contrary an extremely widespread disease with more than 150 million people affected worldwide.

Depression: too many bad fats, not enough good ones

The factors responsible for the development of depression are very complex and still remain poorly understood. In addition to dramatic life events, such as the loss of a child or a divorce, and certain psychological factors (pessimistic perception of life), some observations suggest that dietary habits could also play an important role in the onset of an episode of depression. For example, a good Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a marked decrease in the risk of depression.

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Conversely, adopting a Western-style diet is associated with an increased risk of depression. The diametrically opposite impact of these two types of diet on the risk of depression remains to be explained, but it could be due to their large difference in fat content. Indeed, while the Mediterranean diet contains a variety of beneficial unsaturated fats (monunsaturated and polyunsaturated), the Western diet is rich in saturated fats and trans fats known for their harmful effects on health.

Saturated fat: 50% risk of triggering depression

To examine this question, a team of Spanish researchers examined the eating habits of 12,059 university graduates and attempted to correlate the risk of depression with the type and amount of fat consumed. They observed that people who consumed the most trans fats (fats present in many junk food products) had a 50% greater risk of being affected by depression, compared to those who did not consume this type of fat.

Conversely, the researchers observed a protective effect of monounsaturated fats, the risk of depression being lower in people who preferentially consumed this type of fat. In other words, in addition to being detrimental to heart health, too much trans fat intake is associated with a higher risk of depression.

A good diet not only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, but it is also an important weapon in maintaining good mental health. As the ancient Romans said: Mens sana in corpore sano (A healthy mind in a healthy body)!

Source

Sanchez-Villegas et al. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry; 66: 1090-8.

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Jacka FN et al. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry; 167: 305-11.

Sanchez-Villegas A et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: The SUN Project. PLoS One; 6: e16268.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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