Ultra-Processed Food Intake Linked to Mental Health Symptoms

Highest intake levels tied to mild depression and more mentally unhealthy or anxious days per month

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TUESDAY, Aug. 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals reporting higher intakes of ultra-processed food (UPF) are significantly more likely to report worse mental health symptoms, according to a study published online July 28 in Public Health Nutrition.

Eric M. Hecht, M.D., Ph.D., from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, and colleagues assessed whether individuals who consume higher amounts of UPF have more adverse mental health symptoms. The analysis included data from 10,359 adult participants in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007 to 2012).

The researchers found that individuals with the highest level of UPF consumption were significantly more likely to report at least mild depression (odds ratio, 1.81), more mentally unhealthy days per month (risk ratio, 1.22), and more anxious days per month (risk ratio, 1.19). Similarly, those with the highest UPF consumption were significantly less likely to report zero mentally unhealthy (odds ratio, 0.60) or anxious days (odds ratio, 0.65).

"The ultra-processing of food depletes its nutritional value and also increases the number of calories, as ultra-processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, saturated fat, and salt, while low in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals," Hecht said in a statement. "More than 70 percent of packaged foods in the U.S. are classified as ultra-processed food and represent about 60 percent of all calories consumed by Americans. Given the magnitude of exposure to and effects of ultra-processed food consumption, our study has significant clinical and public health implications."

Abstract/Full Text

Physician’s Briefing Staff

Physician’s Briefing Staff

Published on August 30, 2022

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