Since this blog started almost a year and a half ago, we have only touched on the topic of depression a couple of times, mostly with our inflammation-related articles. But since this is a health blog rooted in weight loss, having a post linking diet with depression is inevitable – not that it is unimaginable, right?
We know that poor diets can result in many negative health outcomes ranging from diabetes to heart conditions. Today we will be exploring how they can cause, or at least contribute to depression. To do this we have looked into a few studies, including some by Associate Professor Felice Jacka of Victoria’s Deakin University, who has been at the forefront of studies into the links between diet and mental illness for over ten years.
Cumulatively, Prof Jacka’s research has found that not only is poor diet destroying our physical health, it is also affecting our mental health. While this may be bad news on the surface, the silver lining is that depression can be reduced by as much as half simply by switching to a healthier diet.
There is even a name for such research, and it is called nutritional psychiatry. The original studies in this field were from California and were, of course molecular in nature. There had been many small scale studies demonstrating that poor diets can damage important brain proteins. Conversely, consuming foods that were high in antioxidants have a protective effect.
These findings inspired Prof Jacka to start a large-scale study in Australian women, specifically looking into how diet can affect depression levels. Just like all good research, she ensured that many of the more common confounders such as socio-economic status, education level and physical activity were accounted for.
The findings were out of the ordinary – those who had a diet rich in processed food were almost one and a half times more likely to suffer from depression than those who ate mostly whole foods. Of course, such a groundbreaking study attracted a lot of interest, resulting in other researchers looking into similar issues.
Unsurprisingly, most of the subsequent studies showed similar trends. A British study showed that those eating high-fat, high-sugar foods were 58 per cent more likely to develop depression than healthy eating folks. Another study, conducted in Spain, showed that a Mediterranean-style diet was hugely beneficial in preventing mental disorders, while a fast-food diet increased depression risk.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. It turns out that pregnant women who had unhealthy diets gave birth to children who later exhibited behaviours that are characteristic of mental disorders. These were not studies conducted on just a few women. One such study had a sample size of over 20, 000, rendering it a powerful study.
Here at Granite Fitness, we are very interested in topics like this since we want to be part of the system that educates people and lead them into healthier lifestyles. Be sure to subscribe to this blog. We will be sure to update you once we come across more concrete results from such studies that are taking place now.
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Also published on Medium.
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