Ultra-processed food consumption linked to adverse mental health symptoms

Ultra-processed food consumption linked to adverse mental health symptoms

According to new research published in , people who consume large amounts of ultra-processed foods report significantly more harmful mental health symptoms. public health nutrition.

Ultra-processed foods mostly consist of processed ingredients that have been extracted from foods and usually contain flavorings, colorings, and other additives. Ultra-processed foods are often high in sugar, fat, and salt, and are often lacking in important nutrients like fiber and vitamins. A number of studies have found that ultra-processed foods can have negative physical health consequences, but little is known about the link between these nutrients and mental health outcomes.

Explained study author Eric Hecht, a physician and assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami. “Ultra-processed foods are of great importance for a variety of health outcomes including obesity and inflammatory diseases.”

Other studies have explored the relationship between diet and mental health, but few have examined the relationship between UPF consumption and mental health. Through anecdotal evidence, I have often wondered about the relationship between junk food and later behavioral problems in children and symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults. All of these ideas sort of led to this study.”

For their study, researchers examined the number of mild depression, the number of mentally unhealthy days, and the number of anxious days in 10,359 adults 18 years of age or older from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a series of nationally representative surveys that include: Interviews and physical examinations. Importantly, the surveys collect information related to dietary behaviors and mental health.

Hecht and colleagues found evidence that consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with worse mental health outcomes. Individuals who ate the most over-processed foods tended to have more symptoms of mild depression along with more “unhealthy days” and “anxiety days” over the past month than those who consumed the least amount.

“We found a dose-response relationship between UPF consumption and mental health symptoms,” Hecht told PsyPost. Others have found a relationship between whole food consumption and improved mental health symptoms. The average American consumes 60% of their calories in the form of UPF. For many other health reasons, this is a bad idea. And now it appears that UPF consumption may be linked to worse mental health. I think in general the average person should look at the amount of packaged food they consume and make an effort to make the majority of their calorie consumption real, unprocessed food.”

A significant number of individuals who reported that ultra-processed foods accounted for less than 19% of their daily calories did not have any unhealthy, mentally worry-free days. “I was impressed that individuals on a diet with lower UPF generally describe the last 30 days as free of mental health symptoms,” Hecht said.

The researchers controlled for potential confounding variables, such as age, body mass index, race/ethnicity, poverty status, smoking status, and level of physical activity. But the study, like all research, has some caveats.

“Our study was cross-sectional, so we can’t be sure which one comes first, the UV protection factor or the symptom,” Hecht explained. “Reverse causation, meaning that mental health symptoms may increase UPF consumption is a real possibility. But the arguments against this are longitudinal studies that have found a temporal relationship between junk food consumption and mental health symptoms. Additionally, experimental studies have found that reducing junk food improves health symptoms.” mental health when compared to individuals who continue their poor diet.”

“The association between UPF consumption and obesity, and the association between UPF consumption and inflammation also suggest pathways toward mental health symptoms because excess weight gain and inflammation can lead to mental health symptoms as found in other studies,” the researcher added.

the study, “Cross-sectional examination of ultra-processed food consumption and adverse mental health symptoms‘, written by Eric M. Hecht, Anna Rabel, Eurydice Martinez Steele, Gary Abrams, Diana Weir, David C. Landy, and Charles H. Henkins.


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