BOCA RATON, Florida. — Eating ultra-processed foods could be the cause of many cases of anxiety and depression, says a new study. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine say they’ve found a link between excessive junk food consumption and more adverse mental health symptoms.
“Ultra-processed” is another way of saying that these products are usually made and ready to eat when they come out of their packaging. They are generally convenient, inexpensive, quick to prepare, and consist of industrial formulations of oils, fats, sugars, starches, and protein isolates. Processed foods also often contain flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers and other cosmetic additives. What they don’t contain much of is whole foods and nutrition.
Common examples of these products include sugary drinks like sodasfast food, potato chips, candy, pastries filled with sugar, and processed meats like burgers and sausages.
Researchers say there have been previous studies that have found a link between consume ultra-processed foods and depression, but few reports have looked at the total number of poor mental health days people spend eating junk food. The new study looked at a nationally representative sample of American adults to see if eating ultra-processed foods increases the number of days of poor mental health.
The team measured mild depression, poor mental health days and anxiety days in 10,359 adults aged 18 and older who took part in the US Health and Nutrition Survey. .
Junk food leads to more “anxious” days
Findings reveal Americans who ate the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods said they had significantly more “mentally unhealthy days” and “anxious days” in relation to people who generally avoid these foods.
People who regularly ate junk food were also significantly less likely to have zero “poor mental health days” and zero “anxious days”. The team believe their findings apply to people living in the United States as well as people living in other “Western Country who share a similar diet.
“Ultra-processing foods depletes their nutritional value and also increases the calorie count, as ultra-processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, saturated fat and salt, while they are low in protein. , fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals,” says corresponding author Eric Hecht, MD, Ph.D., associate associate professor affiliated with FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, in a university outing.
“Over 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 effects of consuming ultra-processed foods, our study has clinical and public health implications.”
The study authors note that they used the NOVA food classification during their research. This system was recently adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. NOVA examines the nature, extent, and purpose of food processing before classifying foods and beverages into four groups: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods. .
The results appear in the journal Public health Nutrition.