“Unhappy Meals”: Too Many Hamburgers and Fries Linked to Depression

Eating large amounts of fast food like hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and pizza can increase your risk for depression by as much as 51%, according to a new study from Spain. The researchers also found that junk food pastries like doughnuts and cupcakes were linked to mood problem and could also increase the risk for depression by as much as 38%, depending upon amounts consumed.

"The more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression, said Professor Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, lead author of the study.

Dr. Sanchez-Villegas and her colleagues studied the eating histories of 9,000 people who had never taken antidepressants or been diagnosed with depression. The research team followed up on them 6.2 years later and found that 493 people in the original group had been diagnosed with depression and this group tended to eat more fast food. Those who were more likely to consume fast food tended to be young, single and less active than those whose diets were comprised of fresh foods.

"The results did not change after adjustment for the consumption of other food items," according to the study, which was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Previous research has shown that certain foods, such as ice cream, can "light up" the same regions of the brain associated with addictions.

Some nutritional experts were uncertain of the results of the Spanish study. According to Food Navigator, a publication from the United Kingdom’s National Health Services, "It is just as plausible that diet and oppression are both the results of a common factor."

Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Connecticut, said that people who are depressed may be turning to food for comfort and relief. "We use the term ‘comfort food’ for a reason," he said. "It may help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression."

In other words, fast food does not cause depression, but depression may cause people to eat more fast food.

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