(NaturalNews) People who eat more processed foods are significantly more likely to suffer from depression, while those who eat more fruits and vegetables are significantly less likely to be depressed, according to a study conducted by researchers from University College London and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
"This study adds to an existing body of solid research that shows the strong links between what we eat and our mental health," said Andrew McCulloch of the Mental Health Foundation. "The U.K. population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars. We are particularly concerned about those who cannot access fresh produce easily or live in areas where there are a high number of fast food restaurants and takeaways."
Researchers collected diet and lifestyle data on 3,500 middle-aged civil servants, then ranked them according to two different measures: how much of their diet was composed of whole foods, and how much was composed of processed foods. Whole foods included fruits and vegetables, while processed foods included high-fat dairy, processed meats, refined grains, fried food and sweetened desserts.
After adjusting for other depression risk factors such as age, education, gender, physical activity and smoking, the researchers found that those who consumed the most processed foods were 58 percent more likely to suffer from depression five years later than those who ate the least. Similarly, those who ate the most whole foods were 26 percent less likely to suffer from depression in five years than those who ate the least.
Because the study was based on correlation, the researchers could not prove that poor diet was actually a cause of depression rather than the other way around. However, the researchers found no association between a history of depression and a poor diet.
"Physical and mental health are closely related, so we should not be too surprised by these results, but we hope there will be further research which may help us to understand more fully the relationship between diet and mental health," said Margaret Edwards of the mental health nonprofit SANE.