Study: French Fries May be Linked to Depression

Fried foods may have a negative impact on mental health, a new study found. (Jack Andersen/Stone RF/Getty Images via CNN)

French fries — they’re greasy, starchy and a comfort food for many.

But reaching for fried foods may have a negative impact on mental health.

A research team in Hangzhou, China, found that frequent consumption of fried foods, especially fried potatoes, was linked with a 12% higher risk of anxiety and 7% higher risk of depression than in people who didn’t eat fried foods.

The link was more pronounced among young men and younger consumers.

Fried foods are known risk factors for obesity, high blood pressure and other health effects. These results “open an avenue in the significance of reducing fried food consumption for mental health,” according to the paper published in the journal PNAS.

However, experts who study nutrition said the results are preliminary, and it’s not necessarily clear whether the fried foods were driving mental health issues, or people experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety turned to fried foods.

The study evaluated 140,728 people over 11.3 years. After excluding participants diagnosed with depression within the first two years, a total of 8,294 cases of anxiety and 12,735 cases of depression were found in those that consumed fried food, while specifically fried potatoes were found to have a 2% increase in risk of depression over fried white meat.

The study had also found that the participants consuming more than one serving of fried food regularly were more likely to be younger men.

“The human component of this study may indicate just what it purports: that higher intake of fried food increases the risk of anxiety/depression,” said Dr. David Katz, a lifestyle medicine specialist who was not involved in the study, via email.

“However, the causal pathway could just as readily go the other way: people with anxiety/depression turn to ‘comfort food’ with increasing frequency for some semblance of relief,” added Katz, founder of the nonprofit True Health Initiative, a global coalition of experts dedicated to evidence-based lifestyle medicine.

Those with underlying symptoms of anxiety and depression could turn to comfort foods as a way of self-medicating, he said.

Unhealthy food and poor nutrition can lower one’s mood and progress a mental health condition, as found in a prior study cited within this new one.

Source: CNN (24 April 2023)

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