Eating a “Western” diet can increase risk of mental illness in teenagers
11/22/2019 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
Eating a “Western” diet can increase risk of mental illness in teenagers

It isn’t a secret that the Western diet is bad for your health. Unfortunately, this processed food-laden diet is the “standard diet” in many countries, not just in the U.S. Numerous studies have linked the Western diet to serious health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. And if that isn’t enough to discourage you from adopting this diet, a recent study has presented evidence of its disastrous effects on the mental health of teenagers.

Obesity or overweight has long been established as one of the main contributors to depression in teens. But according to a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the Western diet and adiposity (overweight) are also linked to inflammation and mental health problems in adolescents.

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The Western diet increases risk of depression in teens

Professor Wendy Oddy from the University of Tasmania led this enlightening study. Together with her colleagues from Australia and Germany, Oddy found evidence of the huge role diet plays in mediating inflammation and mental health problems in adolescents. In particular, the researchers found that high intake of red meat, processed foods and confectionery increases the risk of depression by increasing BMI and inflammation. Meanwhile, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains protects against depression by reducing BMI and associated inflammation.

Oddy and her team of scientists used data from thousands of adolescents collected under the Raine Study. For their own research, Oddy’s team looked at data from 1600 children surveyed at age 14, and 1,000 teens who were surveyed again at age 17.

After analyzing the childrens’ diets and grouping their dietary habits as “Healthy” or “Western,” the team found that there were clear indications that diet had an impact on mental health in teens.

In their conclusion, the authors wrote: “A ‘Western’ dietary pattern associates with an increased risk of mental health problems including depressive symptoms in adolescents, through biologically plausible pathways of adiposity and inflammation, whereas a ‘Healthy’ dietary pattern appears protective in these pathways. Longitudinal modelling into adulthood is indicated to confirm the complex associations of dietary patterns, adiposity, inflammation and mental health problems, including depressive symptoms.”

Western diet associated with many health problems

Truly, the notion that a diet low in nutrients can have adverse effects on mental health should come as no surprise; if low-quality diets have been attributed to problems across the rest of the body, why should the brain be any different? Indeed, research has shown that the typical Western diet increases the risk of many diseases, chronic illnesses and early death.

Whether it’s cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, a poor quality diet is often in tow. Few people would question the benefits of a healthier, higher quality diet for people with heart disease or diabetes. And it turns out the same holds true for mental illnesses like depression.

Last year, a clinical trial showed that changing over to a better quality, more nutrient-rich diet could help fight depression. Healthy food as an antidepressant could shake up the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on people suffering with depression – and it could help give patients a new lease on life. In this trial, 32 percent of people who followed a healthy diet protocol for 12 weeks achieved complete remission – meaning they no longer had depression based on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. On average, healthy diet followers improved their scores on the depression rating scale by about 11 points.

It’s clear that diet plays a role in the health of not only your body, but also your mind. Who would have thought, our bodies and brains are connected?

Sources:

ScienceDirect.com

NutraIngredients-USA.com

EverydayHealth.com

PsychologyToday.com

NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov

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