Junk Food Linked to Mental Disorders

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The American Journal of Psychiatry recently released information concerning a new study that claims that maintaining a healthy diet is beneficial not just for the body, but also for the mind. It’s no surprise that high-fat foods are the main cause of obesity worldwide, but can eating unhealthy food cause depression and anxiety as well? Researchers at the University of Melbourne think so. Dr. Felice N. Jacka, along with her research team, conducted a study that claims mood disorders are more prevalent in women who eat poorly. Foods including processed, refined ingredients lack vital nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and grains.

Over the course of ten years, Dr. Jacka studied 1,046 Australian women ranging in age from 20 to 93 years of age. Of the women, 925 were free of mental disorders prior to the study, with 121 of the participants suffering from either anxiety or depression.

The interesting thing about this study is the dichotomy between the typical American diet, and that of other cultures. This study was based entirely on an Australian population of women, and results showed that those who partook in the stereotypical “western”diet were 50 percent more likely to develop a depressive disorder. The typical American diet consists of fast food, sugar and fatty foods such as hamburgers and pizza. Although this is not true across the board, the American Diabetic Association estimates that one-third of American adults over age 20 are obese. A traditional Australian diet is high in whole-grain foods, fish, vegetables and lean meats.

In addition to the Australian study, the Mental Health Foundation reports similar results saying scientific studies have uncovered a link between junk food and high instances of ADHD, depression and even Alzheimer’s disease. This may be because patients are not getting enough vitamins and minerals found in whole foods. Plus, just as cholesterol clogs the arteries, high-fat foods can also block blood supply to the brain causing untold damage. Foods containing great amounts of trans-fatty acids impede the brain’s ability to transmit information via neurotransmitters.

The old adage that people eat junk food because it tastes good is not always true. Psychological reasons for eating poorly are abundant, from eating for comfort to dealing with body dysmorphic disorders such as bulimia. Luckily, the key to eating healthy is fairly simple, though a little hard to follow. Dieters everywhere have struggled for years against the desire to eat the readily available, rather tasty foods found in convenient stores, restaurants and even grocery stores. It takes real effort to avoid the baking aisle and head to the produce section instead. Here are a few guidelines:

Food for Thought:

Leafy green vegetables

Almonds; unsalted nuts, legumes

Fruit

Salmon

Whole grains; brown rice

Low-fat cheese & milk

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