Often drinks such as diet soft drinks and flavoured yoghurts are promoted as healthier compared to junk food. However, they come under the umbrella term of ultra-processed food which is mass-produced, such as ready-to-eat meals and some fruit juices. A new study has said that these foods could contribute to the risk of depression.
A new study by researchers from Deakin University and Cancer Council Victoria has shown that a daily diet that includes over 30 per cent of ultra-processed food is associated with a significant risk of depression, according to PTI.
The findings, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, provide evidence of the many harms of diets that include cheap, well-marketed, but often nutrient-poor convenience foods. The participants were over 23,000 Australians from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study.
The study included people who were initially not taking any medication for depression and anxiety and were followed for over 15 years. After considering factors such as smoking and lower education, income and physical activity, which are linked to poor health outcomes, the findings show greater consumption of ultra-processed food is associated with a higher risk of depression, according to PTI.
Although the study does not provide evidence that ultra-processed food causes depression, it showed that eating more of it was associated with an increased risk of depression.
"Depression is one of the most common mental disorders across the globe and it is a major health problem because it negatively affects daily living and well-being through lasting low energy, changes in appetite and sleep, loss of interest or pleasure, sadness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide," Melissa Lane, who completed the research as part of her PhD studies at Deakin University's Food and Mood Center said in a press statement.
Understanding the consumption level that may increase the risk of depression will help consumers, healthcare professionals and policymakers make more informed decisions around dietary choices, interventions and public health strategies, she added.
The study reiterates the findings of a 2022 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition which showed that people who consumed high amounts of ultra-processed foods were reported as having significantly more mentally unhealthy days and anxious days.