Not only is fast food bad for your physical health but there is mounting scientific evidence that your mental health also suffers from all those hotdogs and hamburgers, fries and chips - as well as eating commercially prepared baked goods such as doughnuts and sweet rolls. In fact, regular consumers of such fast foods are at 51% higher risk for depression than people who avoid them or only eat them occasionally according to a recent article in ScienceDaily.
This information comes from the journal of Public Health Nutrition in a study carried out by Spanish scientists from the Universities of Granada and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The lead author, Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, said there was a direct relationship between fast food and depression "the more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression."
There was a profile revealed regarding the kinds of people who eat a lot of fast food. The fast foodie is mostly a sedentary single person with poor eating habits: skipping their veggies and not eating much fish, nuts, fruit or olive oil. They also tend to smoke and work more than 45 hours a week.
Commercially baked goods are also implicated, as the study states, "Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression."
The study followed 8,684 people for six months (they were not taking anti-depressants and had no diagnosis of depression) but after eating the above described junk food 493 of the people ended up depressed and medicated. This study backs up an earlier one that uncovered 657 newly depressed people out of 12,059 who had been followed for six months (a 42% risk as opposed to the 51% found in the new 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 bodily health (obesity and cardiovascular diseases) and mental well-being."
With 121 million in the world suffering from depression, that condition becomes one of the major causes of human disability (and in countries with low and medium incomes it the major cause says SD).
Following the now famous Mediterranean diet with its use of olive oil, taking B vitamins supplements and getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids seem to make it less risky that depression will occur.
What else should be done? If the above results are sound, at minimum junk foods should come with warning labels. They should not be served in school lunch programs, programs for seniors, or any government sponsored food programs. Fast food ads aimed at children should be banned, and public awareness programs should be increased including public service announcements in the mass media as is being done with respect to smoking.
There is one qualm I have with the study: That is the inclusion of smokers in the profile. Smoking in and of itself is an independent risk factor for developing depression. The case against junk food would be on firmer ground if future studies excluded smokers from the study groups.
Photo: Yummy! UC Davis.