- Research is ongoing on the role that diet plays in mental well-being in the development and progression of specific mental health issues.
- A study conducted recently found that eating foods processed in a high degree including artificial sweeteners, can make it more likely to develop developing depression.
- Experts offer suggestions to enhance one’s diet and cut down on the consumption of processed foods in order to lower the risk of developing this disease.
Depression is a very common mental health problem which can be debilitating. Researchers are still trying to find the best methods to treat depression and the most effective ways to stop the development of depression. One area of study is the role that diet plays in an important key role in.
A recent study by the Trusted Source journal the study in JAMA NetworkTrusted Source found that eating processed foods increase the likelihood of depression. Researchers discovered that the increased risk was associated with eating food and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners.
The research results suggest another possible benefit to limiting the consumption of foods that are processed in a high degree.
Consuming processed foods can raise the risk of depression
Researchers in this study examined the link between ultra-processed food and depression. Karen Z Berg, Dietitian, who was not part of this study, offered this definition for ultra-processed meals:
“Ultra-processed food items, according to definition of the NOVA definition are those comprised of chemically processed ingredients and added salt, oil or sugar in order to make themmore palatable and also to preserve them. They generally don’t provide beneficial nutritional value. Examples include cold-packed snacks such as chips or cookies as well as sodas, packaged cakes and a variety of sweet breakfast cereals, candy, and so on.”
— Karen Z Berg
“The high-processed nature of these food items often results in a lower-cost product that is durable and more appealing than the whole food product. This makes them simple to consume. They’re also generally filled with fat, calories salt, sugar, and calories which can result in weight growth,” she told Medical News Today.
The study was a cohort study that included Nurses Health Study II participants who were not depressed at the time of baseline. Researchers ultimately included 31,712 participants as part of their analysis.
They examined the food frequency questionnaires that participants submitted. The researchers then studied the quantity of ultra-processed food that people consumed in accordance with the classification of NOVA. This system assists in separating foods according to processing and also helps to identify foods that are processed.
The study identified potential or established risks for depression, like the age of the person, their activity level in addition to alcohol intake and smoking.
In the course of the study, 2,122 people developed depression when they defined the term using a strict definition. 4840 people developed depression when they used an expanded definition of depression.
The study found that people with the highest intake of processed foods were at the highest risk of depression when compared with those who had the least consumption of foods processed in ultra-fine quantities.
Risks posed by artificial sweeteners
Results also revealed that depression risk could be especially high because of the increased intake of processed foods that contain artificial sweeteners as well as artificially sweetened drinks.
Jessie Hulsey, a registered dietitian from Atlanta and the creator of Health Down South, who was not part of the study, weighed in on the findings of the study:
“Participants who consumed a high amount of UPF were spotted to have a higher BMI, greater smoking rates as well as a higher prevalence of co-morbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia. Additionally these individuals were more likely to participate in regular training.”
“Diet plays an important role in our mental and physical well-being and a new study has revealed a worrying relationship between the consumption of processed foods (UPFs) as well as mental well-being. These findings highlight the necessity of incorporating whole, non-processed food items into our diets, as important steps towards lessening the risk of depression as well as improving overall wellbeing.”
— Jessie Hulsey
Limitations of study
This study does have some limitations. It was the first to be limited to women, which means the findings can’t be generalized. Furthermore, the majority of the participants were non-Hispanic white.
“The study population consisted mostly of non-Hispanic white women aged between 42 and 62 without including men or those with diverse ethnic backgrounds. This homogeneity within the population under study calls for cautiousness when comparing the results to other demographics because the effect of food choices on mental health could differ among different genders and ethnic populations,” Hulsey noted.
“Future research should aim to encompass a more diverse range of participants to ensure the applicability of the findings to a wider population, thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between diet and mental well-being,” she said.
The study also relies on certain self-reporting by participants, which raises the risk of data collection that is inaccurate. Researchers also point out that there is a possibility that the outcome could be classified incorrectly since there was no formal clinical interviews.
The results cannot confirm that consuming processed foods can cause depression.
Future research could examine certain of the fundamental mechanisms that are involved in the connection between depression and processed food, including the role of artificial sweeteners.
Guidelines on ways you can limit the use of food products that are processed in a way that is ultra-clean
The results of this study add to the an increasing body of evidence regarding the health advantages of limiting ultra-processed foods consumption. Studies have found that processed foods are linked to higher risk of depression in the long-term.
“Consuming an eating plan that is rich in foods that are processed is associated with a higher likelihood of a variety of health issues such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. This is due in large part to their high concentrations of sugars, fats as well as sodium and other additives that could lead to unbalanced nutrition and a variety of health issues when consumed frequently,” Hulsey noted.
Individuals can make steps to cut down on their consumption of foods that are processed in a high-quality manner by using various methods that include replacing processed foods with healthier choices and choosing smaller portions. Individuals can consult health professionals and nutrition experts who can offer additional information on nutrition.
“The most effective way to make sure that people are not eating foods that have been processed in any way is to check the labels on food items. Make sure to eat all-natural food items as often as you can (i.e. fruits, whole grains, vegetables, meat, beans etc.) in their original forms. If you are forced to buy packaged products, make sure you look over the ingredients and food label. Find whole food items in the list of ingredients, and stay clear of foods with lots of additives or processed foods in them.”
— Karen Z Berg
“One efficient strategy is to choose natural, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as the lean protein along with legumes. Preparing meals at home can give you greater control over the ingredients used and cooking techniques, which can reduce dependence on fast-food or packaged choices,” Hulsey added.