Study finds link between ultra-processed foods and mental health

Nearly one in five adults lives with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, which are among the leading causes of morbidity, disability and mortality, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. At the same time, consumption of ultra-processed foods has reached record levels in the US.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine set out to determine whether there was a direct link between UPF consumption and adverse psychiatric symptoms.

“Eating patterns can affect mental health. For example, poor dietary patterns that lack essential nutrients, have a high glycemic index and are high in added sugars can lead to adverse mental health symptoms.”researchers claim in the study, published in the journalNutrition for public health.

“Although there is some evidence regarding UPF consumption and depressiondata are scarce regarding other adverse mental symptoms, including anxiety and mentally unhealthy days.

“More than 70% of packaged foods in the U.S. are classified as ultra-processed foods and account for about 60% of all calories consumed by Americans. “Given the extent of exposure and the effects of consuming ultra-processed foods, our study has significant clinical and public health implications.” ​said study author Eric Hecht, MD, PhD, and associate professor at FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

According to recent research​, UPF accounted for over half (57%) of the calories consumed by US adults in 2017-2018, down from 53.5% in 2001-2002. In contrast, consumption of whole foods decreased from 32, 7% (in 2001-2002) to 27.4% in 2017-2018.

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