Do you often feel anxious or depressed? Perhaps the cause is to be found in what you eat, especially if you overindulge in sugary drinks, snacks or even ready-made processed meat products. The more processed and unnatural foods are, the richer they are in fats, sugars, colorings and emulsifiers and the more these increase the risk of brain and mood alterations. This emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition thanks to a group of American scientists (Hecht et al, Public Health Nutrition, 2022).
Anxiety, depression and diet
We are what we eat, but more and more research indicates that our mood is also what we eat. To date, there was already some evidence that the consumption of highly processed foods is associated with an increased risk of depression. Instead, little was still known about the link between diet and other mental disorders, such as anxiety or feeling worried and tense. The research we are talking about today sheds light on this point.
Over-processed foods increase the risk of anxiety and depression, here is the study
Scientists drew on data on diet and health, both physical and mental, of 10,359 adults, aged 18 and over and participants in a large program of research called the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. What emerged was that those who consumed a greater number of processed foods, such as sugary drinks, snacks, chips, biscuits, but also savory ready meals and processed meat, also had more mood disorders and more days spent with anxiety, worries, tensions or even depression compared to those who consumed fewer processed products. Not only that, those who ate the most processed foods also had the lowest number of days spent in a stable mood.
The problem with a diet too rich in processed foods is that in this way the level of insulin is altered not only in the body but also in the brain. This causes a decrease in the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood, and increases neuroinflammation, associated with anxiety and depression. In addition, a diet of this type, poor in nutrients, impoverishes the intestinal microbiota that, in turn, when unregulated, can increase inflammation in the brain. That is why it is important to follow a healthy and varied diet. Of course, sometimes an exception to the rule gratifies us, but the important thing is never to overdo it and avoid that the sweet or snack can then become a habit. At stake is the health of the whole organism, which would otherwise find itself fighting against an increase in inflammation that also weakens the immune system, but also the mood. In short, eating healthy really makes you feel happier!