Here's another reason — in addition to heart health — to avoid fast food, junk food and meat containing trans-fats and saturated fats. Eating too much of these can boost your risk of depression, a Spanish study suggests, while consuming olive oil may protect you.
The new study, by researchers at the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, analyzed the eating habits and lifestyles of more than 12,000 volunteers over six years. None of the volunteers suffered from depression at the start. But by the end of the study 657 new cases had been detected. (Click here to read the study.)
The study’s lead author said people who ate more trans-fats — found in artificial form in mass-produced pastries and fast food, and naturally in certain whole milk products — faced “up to a 48% increase in the risk of depression” versus “participants who did not consume these fats."
Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, also said in a news release that the more trans-fats volunteers consumed, “the greater the harmful effect they produced.” (Click here to read the news release.)
In addition, the researchers analyzed the impact of both polyunsaturated fats — abundant in fish and vegetable oils — and olive oil. "We discovered that (these types) of healthier fats, together with olive oil, are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression," said Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, the lead researcher and a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra.
Some 150 million around the globe are estimated to suffer from depression.
The research— published in the online peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE — was performed on a population with a low average intake of trans-fats; such fats made up only 0.4% of the total energy consumed by the volunteers. "Despite this, we observed an increase in the risk of suffering depression of nearly 50%,” Martínez-González said.
He noted the results carry implications for the United States, where people consume more foods containing trans-fats. “On this basis,” Martínez-González said, “we derive the importance of taking this effect into account in countries like the U.S., where the percentage of energy derived from these foods is around 2.5%."
Experts have said it’s better for your heart to avoid “bad” saturated fats found in red meat and diary products like ice cream; and they’ve said you should steer way clear of “very bad” trans fats found in everything from store-bought cookies to French fries.
The Spanish researchers said their results suggest diet influences both depression and heart disease in a similar manner, and that similar biological mechanisms may trigger the diseases.
Claude S. Weiller
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