Eating more ultra-processed foods may shorten life span
In an observational study published online February 11, 2019, by JAMA Internal Medicine, almost 45,000 adults ages 45 and older completed several dietary assessments over a two-year period. On average, ultra-processed foods made up about 15 per cent of their daily diet as measured in grams.
Ultra-processed food was defined as ready-to-eat and microwaveable foods, such as bread, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, chicken or fish nuggets, chocolate bars and candies, chips, and artificially sweetened beverages.
After nine years, the researchers found a direct statistical connection between higher intake of ultra-processed food and a higher risk of early death from all causes, especially cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Several factors might explain the connection, according to the researchers. Ultra-processed foods often have fewer nutrients than unprocessed foods, and they contain higher amounts of sugar, salt, saturated fat, and food additives, all of which are associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases.
Besides cutting back on processed foods, the researchers suggested people read food labels when shopping and choose products with a shorter list of ingredients and few or no additives.
Meanwhile, according to a new study, eating junk food can cause fat to seep into the brain and trigger depression.
The research suggests that saturated fat actually enters the brain via the bloodstream.
Once there it affects the functioning of part of the brain that controls our emotions, the hypothalamus, and leads to an increase in depressive symptoms.
While the research was carried out in mice, scientists believe that the findings may explain the links between depression and obesity.
Anti-depressants are less effective on obese people than those of normal weight.
The researchers suggest that being obese is an additional factor causing depression, with the high fat diet to blame.
The study was led by the University of Glasgow and published in Translational Psychiatry.
The study looked at mice fed a diet of up to 60 per cent saturated and unsaturated fats and found parts of the fat – saturated fatty acids – were actually entering the brain via the bloodstream.
Researchers in this study believe that their novel findings may now influence new targets for antidepressant medications that may be more suitable for overweight and obese individuals.
Professor George Baillie, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow, said: “This is the first time anyone has observed the direct effects a high fat diet can have on the signaling areas of the brain related to depression.
“This research may begin to explain how and why obesity is linked with depression and how we can potentially better treat patients with these conditions.
“We often use fatty food to comfort ourselves as it tastes really good, however in the long term, this is likely to affect one’s mood in a negative way.
“Of course, if you are feeling low, then to make yourself feel better you might treat yourself to more fatty foods, which then would consolidate negative feelings.
“We all know that a reduction in fatty food intake can lead to many health benefits, but our research suggests that it also promotes a happier disposition.
“Further to that, understanding the types of fats, such as palmitic acid, which are likely to enter the brain and affect key regions and signaling will give people more information about how their diet can potentially affect their mental health.”