Depression is common and estimates suggest that in a family of four, one of the family members will likely suffer from mental health problems. Depression is even 3 times more common in patients after a heart attack than in the general population. Depression after a heart attack is bad not only because of the accompanying emotional distress, it also increases the risk of having another heart attack or premature death.
The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cells, where nutrients from food is converted to ATP: energy that is usable by the body. Normally, we associate better mitochondrial function with athletes: being able to run, swim or bike fast over long distances requires a lot of energy.
The health-related benefits of physical activity are well-known. For instance, we have previously posted the popoular “23 1/2 hour”-video on the blog, showing the association between being physical active and having a lower risk of depression, anxiety and several other psychological symptoms. But physical activity is not the only health behaviour that are linked to psychological issues.
A recently published study showed that the consumption of baked goods such as buns and cakes, and fast food such as pizza, hotdogs and hamburgers, were strongly associated with depression. The study was conducted in a sample of 8964 former university students in Spain, with no depression symptoms at baseline. They were then followed through an average period of 6 months, where 493 participants developed depression or started taking antidepressants. The analysis revealed a dose-response relationship, which means that the more food that was consumed, the higher the chance of being depressed.
The characteristics of people with the highest consume of commercial baked goods and fast food were that they were more likely to be single, less active and also have bad dietary habits, such as consuming a smaller amount of vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish and olive oil. Cigarette smoking and working more than 45 hours per week were also typical in this group.
Why do fast food and cakes increase the chance of being depressed? The authors suggest that this actually may be explained biologically: Previous research has found depression to be associated with a low-grade inﬂammatory status, endothelial dysfunction, worse lipid proﬁles and impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis. All these symptoms are at the same time associated with a high consumption of transunsaturated fatty acids (TFA) – a main ingredience in fast food and commercial baked goods. Alternative explanations could be that a high consumption of unhealthy food in most cases leads to overweight and obesity – conditions that are well known to be related with psychological problems. Likewise, the typical high-consumer was single, inactive and worked a lot. These characterisics may lead to depression as well.