One Cheeseburger With A Side Of Zoloft

by Dish Staff

David Robson surveys the latest findings suggesting that “fatty, sugary diets are bad for the mind, as well as the body”:

[A]round 2010, three landmark papers caused more doctors to sit up and take notice. One took place in southern Europe, where doctors were charting the transition from the traditional Mediterranean diets, full of seafood, olive oil and nuts, to the fast food served in the rest of the West. Besides studying the risks of heart disease and diabetes, the scientists also looked at the 10,000 participants’ mental health. The differences were striking; those who lived almost exclusively on the traditional Mediterranean diet were about half as likely to develop depression over the period as those eating more unhealthy food – even when you control for things like education and economic status.

Around the same time, psychologists examining UK civil servants – in the famous ‘Whitehall’ studies – found exactly the same pattern; over the course of five years, people who regularly indulged in processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods were about 60% more likely to develop depression over the same period. Then Jacka confirmed the results with a further 1,000 Australian volunteers. Finally, the ball started rolling. “Over the following years we’ve seen an exponential growth in the number of studies,” says [Felice] Jacka. Perhaps the best evidence came this year from the lab of Frank Hu at Harvard University, who directly traced the contributions of certain diet patterns with levels of cytokines, and depression; sure enough, foods rich in olive oil, leafy vegetables and wine reduced inflammation, and slashed the risk of depression by about 40%, compared to the ‘pro-inflammatory diet’, which includes sugary drinks, processed grains and red meat.