Junk Food Consumption Linked To Higher Risk Of Depression In Middle-Aged Men; Fruits And Vegetables Can Lessen Risk

Men eating Nathan's hot dogs
Middle aged men who regularly consume junk food face a higher risk of depression symptoms. U.S. Federal Government

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women between the ages of 45 and 64 tend to be at higher risk of depression, but a man’s diet could significantly affect his risk of developing the condition. Middle-aged men who have a diet high in junk food, sugar, and processed meats face a greater risk of depression, according to a new study.

Findings published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics unveil that junk food consumption among middle-aged men is associated with a higher risk of depression, while a high intake of fruits and vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of depression. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland conducted a study based on the population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study in which more than 2,000 middle-aged or older Finnish men made up the sample size. The participants were followed-up for an average of 13 years to examine diet and lifestyle habits and how these factors affect mental illness.

The participants' diets were measured by food records and food frequency questionnaires. The researchers obtained information on cases of depression from the National Hospital Discharge Register for the participants, the Daily Mail reports.

In the study, a junk food diet was defined as a high amount of processed meats, sugary drinks, desserts, and snacks. A healthy diet was defined as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat cheeses.

Middle-aged male participants who ate unhealthy foods were linked to a higher risk of depression due to poor-quality diet and decreased intake of nutrients. The researchers noted that it is unclear whether the intake of foods and nutrients is associated with the risk of depression in healthy individuals with no history of the medical condition.

Compared to their counterparts, participants who ate more fruits and vegetables reportedly suffered less depression symptoms and lowered their risk of developing the condition during the 13-year follow-up. An increased intake of folate — a B vitamin essential for cell growth and reproduction — found in fruits and veggies, whole grains, and meats had a beneficial effect on middle-aged men and lessened their risk of developing depression. This finding is supported by other research that has indicated healthy diets do help protect against disease. Those who follow the Mediterranean diet, primarily consisting of fruits, vegetables, and fish, have lower rates of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, according to Mayo Clinic.

"The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention," said Anu Ruusunen, who presented the results in her doctoral thesis in the field of nutritional epidemiology.

According to the CDC, an estimated one in 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from depression, while 3.4 percent of adults suffer from major depression.

To learn how you or someone you know can heal from depression, click here.

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