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'You Are What You Eat' Includes Our Brains

New studies show potentially negative psychological effects of a junk food diet

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A study from Loma Linda University, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found that adults who consumed more unhealthy food were also more likely to report symptoms of either moderate or severe psychological distress than those who consumed a healthier diet.

Psychology Today reports that the study findings showed increased sugar consumption is associated with bipolar disorder. It also showed that consumption of foods that have been fried or contain high amounts of sugar and processed grains are linked with depression.

The top line of the Loma Linda study found that poor mental health is linked with poor diet quality, regardless of personal characteristics such as gender, education, age, marital status and income level.  It found that nearly 17% of California adults are likely to suffer from mental illness: 13.2% with moderate psychological distress and 3.7% with severe psychological distress.   

On the positive side, according to the magazine, another study, from the University of Manchester, of 46,000 people has found that weight loss, nutrient boosting and fat-reduction diets can all reduce the symptoms of depression. It found evidence that dietary improvement significantly reduces symptoms of depression. Moreover, all types of dietary improvement appeared to have equal effects on mental health, with weight loss, fat reduction or nutrient-improving diets all having similar benefits for depressive symptoms.

 “Just making simple changes is equally beneficial for mental health," the study said. "In particular, eating more nutrient-dense meals which are high in fiber and vegetables, while cutting back on fast-foods and refined sugars, appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a junk food diet.”

“Taken together, our data really highlight the central role of eating a healthier diet and taking regular exercise to act as a viable treatment to help people with low mood," lead author Joseph Firth told Psychology Today.

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