Ultra Processed Foods Linked To Depression And Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are linked to foods that make up 60 percent of all calories consumed in the U.S..

Depression and anxiety are linked to foods that make up 60 percent of all calories consumed in the U.S..

Ultra-processed foods are linked to both depression and anxiety, a large study finds.

People who eat more packaged snacks, reconstituted meats and sweet beverages have more days classed as ‘mentally unhealthy’.

They are also more likely to report having been anxious and feeling mentally unhealthy every day.

Ultra-processed foods tend to contain very little natural, whole food.

These foods are also the most addictive, containing high levels of refined carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed into the system, spiking blood sugar levels.

Dr Eric Hecht, the study’s first author, explained:

“The ultra-processing of food depletes its nutritional value and also increases the number of calories, as ultra-processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, saturated fat and salt, while low in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

More than 70 percent of packaged foods in the U.S. are classified as ultra-processed food and represent about 60 percent of all calories consumed by Americans.

Given the magnitude of exposure to and effects of ultra-processed food consumption, our study has significant clinical and public health implications.”

The study included over 10,000 adults who were asked about instances of mild depression and the number of mentally unhealthy and anxious days they experienced.

The results revealed that those eating the highest levels of ultra-processed foods were 81 percent more likely to be suffering from mild depression than those who ate the least.

Professor Charles H. Hennekens, study co-author, said:

“Data from this study add important and relevant information to a growing body of evidence concerning the adverse effects of ultra-processed consumption on mental health symptoms.

Analytic epidemiologic research is needed to test the many hypotheses formulated from these descriptive data.”

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The study was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition (Hecht et al., 2022).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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