Do you like hamburgers, 'hot dogs', donuts and pizzas? Do you often resort to this type of food because you lack the desire or time to cook? In that case, it is important that you know a fact extracted from a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra, and is that the people most fond of eating fast food -colloquially known as 'junk food'- Y industrial pastries they are much more prone to suffer depression, because excessive consumption of these products increases up to 40% the chances of developing this pathology.

In the investigation, which collects Public Health Nutrition, 8,964 people participated, without a history of mental disorders or antidepressant use at the beginning of the study, and who were followed for a period of six years. Every two years, volunteers filled out questionnaires explaining their life habits and the type of food they consumed. Given that it is likely that patients with depression are those who eat more junk food precisely because of their illness, and to ensure that among the participants there were no people with depression who had not yet been diagnosed -which could have influenced the results-, after two years the participants were evaluated again and those who already had symptoms of depression were excluded at that time.

The more fast food a subject consumed, the more the risk of developing depression increased

During the time the study lasted, 493 people were diagnosed with depression or began taking antidepressants, and the main author of the work, Dr. Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, explains that they detected that there was an association between the intake of fast food and the appearance of depressive symptoms and that, in addition, the more food of this type consumed by a subject, the greater the risk of developing depression.

To explain the effect that the type of diet has on the likelihood of developing a depressive disorder, the researchers allude to the high trans fat content of typical foods of fast food, which in addition to increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, also they are related to the development of depression because they increase the production of cytokines, substances with inflammatory properties, related to the decrease of the synthesis of neurotransmitters, a necessary process for the correct neuronal functioning.

The authors of the study found that people who consumed fast food regularly, were also often the most sedentary, those who smoked the most and worked the most hours, as well as those most likely to remain single. In addition, their dietary habits were worse because they were the least fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil - all of them foods of the Mediterranean diet - consumed. This means that there is a certain predisposition related to the character of these people towards inadequate life habits that, in turn, raise their risk of suffering from depressive disorders.

Experts conclude that adequate nutrition can protect against depression, as it does against many other diseases, and advocate the virtues of the Mediterranean diet to prevent the onset of this condition.

The link between junk food and depression (November 2019).