Study firms up diet and depression link

October 10, 2018, James Cook University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Does fast food contribute to depression? Can a healthy diet combat mental illness?

In an unusual experiment, James Cook University researchers in Australia have found that among Torres Strait Islander people the amount of fish and processed food eaten is related to depression.

A JCU research team led by Professors Zoltan Sarnyai and Robyn McDermott looked at the link between depression and diet on a Torres Strait island, where is available, and on a more isolated island, which has no fast food outlets.

Dr. Maximus Berger, the lead author of the study, said the team interviewed about 100 people on both .

"We asked them about their diet, screened them for their levels of depression and took blood samples. As you'd expect, people on the more isolated island with no fast food outlets reported significantly higher seafood consumption and lower take-away food consumption compared with people on the other island," he said.

The researchers identified nineteen people as having moderate to severe depressive symptoms: sixteen were from the island where fast food is readily available, but only three from the other island.

"People with major depressive symptoms were both younger and had higher take-away food consumption," said Dr. Berger.

The researchers analysed the blood samples in collaboration with researchers at the University of Adelaide and found differences between the levels of two in people who lived on the respective islands.

"The level of the fatty associated with depression and found in many take-away foods was higher in people living on the island with ready access to fast food, the level of the fatty acid associated with protection against depression and found in seafood was higher on the other island," said Dr. Berger.

He said it was important to remember that contemporary Western diets have an abundance of the depression-linked fatty acid (n-6 PUFA) and a relative lack of the depression-fighting fatty acid (n-3 LCPUFA).

"In countries with a traditional diet, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 is 1:1, in industrialised countries it's 20:1," he said.

Professor Sarnyai said depression affects about one in seven people at some point in their lives and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are disproportionately affected by psychological distress and mental ill-health compared with the general population.

"Depression is complex, it's also linked to social and environmental factors so there will be no silver bullet cure, but our data suggests that a diet that is rich in n-3 LCPUFA as provided by seafood and low in n-6 PUFA as found in many take-away foods may be beneficial," he said.

Professor Sarnyai said with the currently available data it was premature to conclude that can have a lasting impact on risk but called for more effort to be put into providing access to healthy in rural and remote communities.

"It should be a priority and may be beneficial not only to physical health but also to mental health and wellbeing," he said.

Explore further: Large-scale study finds that the Mediterranean diet is best for your mental health

More information: Maximus Berger et al, Cross-sectional association of seafood consumption, polyunsaturated fatty acids and depressive symptoms in two Torres Strait communities, Nutritional Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1504429

Related Stories

Large-scale study finds that the Mediterranean diet is best for your mental health

October 9, 2018
Admittedly, eating chocolate or ice cream to chase the blues away is so much more enjoyable than healthy alternatives. But a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry says that a diet rich in fish, nuts and ...

Vegetarians more susceptible to depression than meat eaters, study shows. Here's why.

September 11, 2017
Vegetarians are at higher risk of suffering depression compared to those who eat meat and consume a conventional balanced diet, according to a new study.

Plant-rich diets may prevent depression – new evidence

September 26, 2018
Being depressed can negatively affect your appetite and what you eat, but can bad eating habits bring your mood down? Our latest study, a systematic review of the best available evidence, found a clear link between the quality ...

The link between fast food and depression confirmed

March 30, 2012
According to a recent study headed by scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, eating commercial baked goods (fairy cakes, croissants, doughnuts, etc.) and fast food (hamburgers, ...

Healthy food is key to a healthy mind

October 9, 2017
The risk of developing depression is directly linked to diet, lifestyle and exercise, a ground-breaking index developed by Swinburne researchers has found.

Does eating more fish protect you from depression?

January 12, 2018
According to the world health organisation (WHO), depression is the greatest single cause of disability worldwide. Therefore, understanding mechanisms leading to depression and how to minimise its risks is very important.

Recommended for you

Research shows signalling mechanism in the brain shapes social aggression

October 19, 2018
Duke-NUS researchers have discovered that a growth factor protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and its receptor, tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) affects social dominance in mice. The research has ...

Good spatial memory? You're likely to be good at identifying smells too

October 19, 2018
People who have better spatial memory are also better at identifying odors, according to a study published this week in Nature Communications. The study builds on a recent theory that the main reason that a sense of smell ...

How clutch molecules enable neuron migration

October 19, 2018
The brain can discriminate over 1 trillion odors. Once entering the nose, odor-related molecules activate olfactory neurons. Neuron signals first accumulate at the olfactory bulb before being passed on to activate the appropriate ...

Scientists discover the region of the brain that registers excitement over a preferred food option

October 19, 2018
At holiday buffets and potlucks, people make quick calculations about which dishes to try and how much to take of each. Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists have found a brain region that appears to be strongly connected ...

Gene plays critical role in noise-induced deafness

October 19, 2018
In experiments using mice, a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered a gene that plays an essential role in noise-induced deafness. Remarkably, by administering an experimental chemical—identified in a separate ...

Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity'

October 18, 2018
When we're born, our brains have a great deal of flexibility. Having this flexibility to grow and change gives the immature brain the ability to adapt to new experiences and organize its interconnecting web of neural circuits. ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TK422
3 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2018
Does this explain the rabid activism so common among Vegans?
Anonym518498
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 10, 2018
I hope no USA taxpayer dollars went for this garbage
stephencrowley214
5 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2018
Anon, oh shut the fuck up you whiny douchebag. Your probably ok with the trillions spent on weapons development and the military industrial complex

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.