Fast food favors depression - young people are particularly at risk

Fast food favors depression - young people are particularly at risk

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Depression from fast food?

If adolescents consume fast food more often, this increases the risk of developing depression, which, according to a recent study, could be due to high sodium levels and low potassium levels as a result of fast food consumption.

The University of Alabama's recent study found that eating fast food among adolescents increases the likelihood of depression. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Pysiological Reports".

Depression in adolescents is increasing

Adolescents are generally known for their defiant attitudes and dramatic mood swings, but a much more worrying mood has increased over the past decade: depression. Fast food consumption could be to blame.

Abnormal sodium and potassium levels found in adolescents

To find a possible connection, the current study analyzed the urine of a group of students. The researchers found high sodium and low potassium levels. High sodium levels could be due to so-called processed foods. These include, for example, fast food, frozen meals and unhealthy snacks. Low potassium levels indicate that healthy fruits and vegetables (such as beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, avocados), but also foods such as yoghurt and salmon are consumed in insufficient quantities.

Improve wellbeing with the right foods

The study found that higher sodium and low urine potassium levels at the start of the study predicted signs of depression over the next year and a half. The relationship was also confirmed after variables such as blood pressure, weight, age and gender were taken into account. Potassium-rich foods are usually also healthy foods, say the researchers. If adolescents include more potassium-rich foods in their diet, they will likely have more energy and generally feel better. Improved well-being can then lead to improved mental health, according to the research team.

What is so bad about processed foods?

French fries, lemonade and frozen pizza are usually full of salt, sugar and fat. The research group was now trying to find out whether there are other ingredients in processed foods that could be particularly unhealthy for humans. Previous studies have similarly found a link between fast food, processed baked goods, and depression in adults. A study in Spain tracked nearly 9,000 people over a six-year period and found that people who ate more processed foods were 48 percent more likely to experience depression.

A meta-analysis of studies from the United States, Spain, France, Australia, Greece and Iran also showed a robust relationship between diet and depression. The results showed that people who avoided a heavily processed diet and instead ate a Mediterranean diet had a reduced risk of depression. Such a diet included, for example, fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and little red meat or processed foods.

High sodium levels are associated with depression

In the current study, only a connection between sodium and depression could be found, but no causal connection could be established. Further research should now deal with this topic. Poor nutrition could be linked to other risk factors for depression, such as social isolation, lack of support, lack of resources or poor access to health care and drug abuse. It is difficult to find out whether diet is the reason or just an indicator of other risk factors for depression.

For years, there have been increasing numbers of depression and suicides among adolescents. Many factors could contribute to this, including nutrition, but also chronic lack of sleep, excessive use of social media and even fear of climate change, the researchers explain. (As)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Sylvie Mrug, Catheryn Orihuela, Michal Mrug, Paul W. Sanders: Sodium and potassium excretion predict increased depression in urban adolescents, in Pysiological Reports (query: 30.08.2019), Pysiological Reports

Video: Lifestyle, health u0026 happiness - with Dr Rangan Chatterjee (June 2022).


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