You Feel What You Eat: Poor Diet Linked to Depression

Another reason to adopt a healthy diet: your mood. Researchers in Spain discovered a link between depression and diets that are high in trans fats. A study led by Dr. Almudena Sanchez-Villegas looked at more than 12,000 participants to determine the effect of diet on depression. The researchers found that the participants who ate diets with the most trans fats had a 48 percent increased risk of developing depression. Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, are artificial: they are created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils. They are then used to make a variety of products, including fast food and industrial cookies, crackers, and baked goods. “Bad” fats increase LDL cholesterol and reduce the good HDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation. This affects heart health but is also linked with depression. It is believed that the inflammation may interfere with neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which affect mood. The study looked at 12,059 people with an average age of 37 without depression. The participants completed food frequency questionnaires describing their intake of fats. After a median of over six years, 657 cases of depression diagnosed. Those who consumed more trans fat had a higher risk of depression, and those who ate the “most” trans fat had a 48 percent higher risk. Interestingly, the consumption of trans fats was relatively low even for this “high” group. They consumed about 1.5 grams of trans fats per day, which is less than the maximum recommended by the American Heart Association (which says consumption should be less than 2 grams). The study participants lived in a Mediterranean region, in which olive oil consumption was typically higher and trans fat consumption was lower. In the US, consumption of trans fats is typically much higher than 2 grams. On the other hand, according to Dr. Sanchez-Villegas, “the participants with an olive oil consumption higher than 20 grams a day (about 0.7 ounces) had a 30 percent lower risk of depression than those without consumption or with a very low consumption of olive oil.” Partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, cause some 82 premature deaths a year, but its effect may be much more far reaching as millions struggle with food-related depression, as this study suggests could well be the case. Cutting trans fats from your diet doesn’t have to be painful; it can be delicious when you opt to make 22 Days Nutrition part of your daily routine.