Can Fast Food Make You Depressed?

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Can Fast Food Make You Depressed

Regular readers of this blog may remember my previous post about the root causes of anxiety and depression. In that article I discuss the fact that your diet can contribute to mental health problems. The good news is, of course, that changing to a healthy diet can contribute to better mental health! 

Recently, further research has established a link between a diet high in fast food and depression. A multi-nation 2018 research study, published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, found that, “Eating junk food increases the risk of becoming depressed.” The researchers found that a poor diet has the same impact as smoking, lack of exercise, pollution, and obesity. 

A 2012 study, reported by Shape Magazine and numerous other mainstream news media, found that people who eat fast food are “51 percent more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to none.” In fact, the research indicated that the more junk food the participants in the study ate, the stronger the link to depression. 

Why Fast Food Can Lead to Depression

A diet high in fast food means a diet high in fat, sugar, and processed foods. This type of diet leads to chronic inflammation in the body. Long-term chronic inflammation causes a host of health problems including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and cancer. Researchers think that it also interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate mood, which is why it can sometimes lead to depression. 

What is Chronic Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s response to traumas like cuts and broken bones, or infections. The immune system responds with a much higher number of white blood cells to the area, higher temperatures and other immune system responses to help speed healing. This is why the area around a bad cut becomes swollen, red, and warm to the touch. As the injury or infection heals, the inflammation dissipates.

In the case of chronic inflammation, the body’s immune system creates a continuous state of less intense inflammation in response to system wide problems. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Conditions in the body can trigger an immune system response even though there’s no actual disease or injury to combat. The immune system sometimes cannot shut down this response, leading to months of chronic inflammation.

It’s been well established that one of the triggers that causes the immune system to go into overdrive and create chronic inflammation is a diet high in added sugars, refined carbohydrates, fried foods and processed meats. Sound familiar? In other words, junk food can contribute to suffering from chronic inflammation as well as to depression. 

Foods that Help Fight Inflammation and Depression

You can create a diet that will help rid your body of chronic inflammation. Which will also help reduce your risk of depression. As the Harvard Medical School reports, “One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.” 

Here’s a list of anti-inflammatory foods: 

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fish high in Omega 3s, like salmon
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts
  • Strawberries, oranges, blueberries and cherries
  • Whole grains

Center your diet around these inflammation fighting foods and avoid fast food. You’ll be well on your way toward sound physical and mental health! 

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