Happiness in Whole, Fresh Foods?

November 06, 2009

Happiness in Whole, Fresh Foods?

Will a diet rich in whole foods lower our risk and the overall occurrence of depression? Researchers from University College, London, recently looked into the link between two different dietary patterns and the incidence of self reported depression; finding that those who reported a higher intake of processed foods were more likely to experience depression.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability for those aged 15-44 in the United States and affects approximately 6.7% of adults. Disability is characterized as the inability to perform the activities of daily living, which can include (but are certainly not limited to) communication, getting in or out of bed, managing one’s life, eg light house work, managing money, preparing meals, using the telephone and socializing. Disability symptoms are likely to continue indefinitely, resulting in the need for supportive services. So if there is a way to improve such a debilitating condition through the foods we eat… what are we waiting for?

The study, published in the November ’09 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, used data from 3,486 civil service employees, whose average age was 55. Dietary intake data was based on questionnaires administered at the beginning of the study, and follow up was collected five years later – as well as a self assessment of depression.

A diet high in processed foods, meat, chocolate, sweetened desserts, fried foods, refined cereals and high fat dairy products, was compared to a diet based on more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and fish. Those consuming the latter were less likely to report symptoms of depression even after other factors such as smoking, physical activity level and body mass were controlled.

Although the study’s researchers do note certain limitations in the study’s design, including the method of dietary data collection and the homogeneity of the population studied, there was a definite and observable link between depression and processed food intake. 
Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the link, including the effect of certain vitamins and minerals on brain chemistry. We at SupermarketGuru.com believe that it is the contribution of the naturally ‘packaged’ nutrients, vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds that unprocessed foods whole foods contain, that ultimately protect us from depression and other health problems.

More studies are needed to provide further conclusions on the link between food and depression; in the mean time, encourage shoppers to head to the produce section for more fruits and vegetables as well as to the freezer aisles where shoppers can find fresh frozen fruits and vegetables that will increase the overall flavor and health profile of any meal! Manufacturers, look to products like Haagen-Dazs 5, Healthy Choice All Naturals, and Campbell’s Select Harvest, for innovations in lesser processing and fewer ingredients, something The Lempert Report is forecasting as a huge influence on the future of packaged foods.

For more information on depression, visit The National Institute of Mental Health.

The full study, Dietary patterns and depressive symptoms in middle age, can be found in the 2009 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.