Avoid junk food if you want to keep depression at bay. That’s the message from research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2009, which examined the links between diet and the risk of developing depression.
Researchers investigated the dietary habits of 3486 people aged 35 to 55 years. Five years later, they asked those same participants about their experience of depressive symptoms. The results showed that people who ate a typical Western-style diet heavy in processed and junk foods such as processed meat, refined grains, fried food and desserts were 58% more likely to experience depression than those who ate a whole food diet based on vegetables, fruit and fish.
It’s not clear exactly how these nutritional influences contribute to the presence or absence of depression, but a number of factors may be involved. For example, a Western-style diet is known to increase levels of inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression.
High consumption of refined sugars may also be associated with depressive symptoms. On the other hand, a whole food diet contains a variety of nutrients and is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients such as folate that are known to help reduce depression risk. The presence of large quantities of nutrients such as folate and polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to part of the protective action of a whole food diet.