Nearly one in five adults suffers from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, which are among the leading causes of illness, disability, and death, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. At the same time, consumption of ultra-processed foods has reached record levels in the United States.
Researchers from the Florida Atlantic University Schmidt School of Medicine set out to determine if there is a direct link between UPF consumption and adverse mental health symptoms.
“Dietary patterns may affect mental health. For example, poor dietary patterns that are lacking in essential nutrients, have a high glycemic index, and are high in added sugars may cause reversible symptoms,”The study researchers argued, Published in the magazine public health nutrition.
“While there is some evidence regarding UPF consumption and depressionData are sparse regarding other adverse mental health symptoms including anxiety and unhealthy mental days.
“More than 70% of packaged foods in the United States are classified as ultra-processed foods and account for approximately 60% of all calories consumed by Americans. Given the magnitude of exposure and the effects of consuming ultra-processed foods, our study has clinical significance and public health implications, ” said study author Eric Hecht, MD, PhD, and associate professor at FAU Schmidt School of Medicine.
according to Recent Research, UPF represented more than half (57%) of calories consumed by adults in the United States in 2017-2018, up from 53.5% in 2001-2002. In contrast, consumption of whole foods decreased from 32.7% (in 2001-2002) to 27.4% in 2017-2018.
What are ultra-processed foods?
Researchers have identified ultra-processed foods as “Synthetic formulations of processed foods (oils, fats, sugars, starch, and protein isolates) that contain little or no whole food and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers and other cosmetic additives.”
For the purpose of the study, the researchers used the NOVA food classification, a system recently adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. NOVA takes into account the nature, extent, and purpose of food processing in order to classify foods and beverages into four groups: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed cooking ingredients, processed foods, and highly processed foods.
“Ultra-processing a food depletes its nutritional value and also increases its calorie count, as ultra-processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, saturated fat and salt, while low in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals,” Hecht added.
UPF consumption and self-reported ‘mentally unhealthy’ and ‘anxiety’ days
The researchers studied a nationally representative sample of the US population (10,359 adults 18 and older from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) and measured three mental health symptoms: mild depression (determined by a 9-question personal health questionnaire), and the number of unhealthy days Mental, anxiety number of days.
The number of mentally unhealthy days was obtained from the response to the question:Over the past 30 days, how many days has your mental health been not good?The number of worry days was obtained from the response to the question:During the past 30 days, how many days did you feel anxious, stressed, or anxious? ‘.
Results showed that individuals who ate the most highly processed foods compared to those who consumed the least amount were more likely to report negative mental health symptoms of mild depression, Mentally unhealthy daysAnd the Worried days.They also have much lower reporting rates than zero Mentally unhealthy daysand zero Worried days.
A growing body of research is exploring the relationship between diet and mental health
The researchers noted that these findings are in line with other research exploring the link between diet and mental health. For example, in one 2014 meta-analysisAmong the twenty observational studies, individuals who ate meals with more fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains had a lower risk of depression.
in another place random experimentwhich the researchers said provides the most reliable evidence for small to moderate effects, those assigned to a three-month healthy dietary intervention (consisting of higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains) reported a significant reduction in moderate to severe depression.
“The data from this study add important and relevant information to the growing body of evidence regarding the adverse effects of ultra-processed consumption on mental health symptoms,”said Charles H. Hennekens, MD, PH, co-author, first Sir Richard Doll Professor of Medicine, and senior academic advisor, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine.
source: public health and nutrition
Cross-sectional examination of ultra-processed food consumption and adverse mental health symptoms
Authors: Eric M Hecht, et al.
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