You think what you eat


We have grown used to the ‘you are what you eat’ notion and it is both obvious logically and well-known scientifically that health is affected by the foods we eat. Indeed, there is little escaping the fact and I say this, having a natural affinity for chocolate and other sweet stuffs (in moderation of course!).

Apparently though it isn’t just waistlines that are affected..

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The BBC website reports on a research study which claims that depression is linked to eating processed foods.

The report is published in full in the British Journal of Psychiatry and the study involved 3500 civil servants and any links between their diets and the development of depression – with other factors taken into account.

There was a significant difference in the risk of the development of depression depending on the diet. As the article says

Those who ate the most whole foods had a 26% lower risk of future depression than those who at the least whole foods.

By contrast people with a diet high in processed food had a 58% higher risk of depression than those who ate very few processed foods.

There are a number of thoughts I had about this. Firstly, and one picked up in the article (so I’m not claiming an original thought!) is that often processed foods are cheaper and there may be a link with poverty levels and difficult circumstances and depressive illnesses. Of course, the base group taken for the research were employed civil servants so that wouldn’t necessarily be the case for this study but if the conclusions are extrapolated to the general population – we can assume that levels of poverty may increase the risk factors.

Also it is oft-proved that physical and mental health are closely related – a poor diet may bring about poorer physical health which may be a cause of more depression.

It’s an interesting study and one that further encourages me to reach for an apple rather than the coco pops in the great Breakfast decision of this morning.

9 thoughts on “You think what you eat

  1. I know I don’t often comment, but wanted to add something about the ’employed civil servants’ comment. When I started out in the Civil Service I was on a pretty low wage and I was 3 grades from the bottom rung in terms of payscales.

    There were a number of single parents, dual-income families (who are time poor and likely to shove something in the oven), and although they may not be experiencing true poverty, they certainly weren’t rolling in it. And a lot of oven and TV dinners were had, I’m sure!

    • Fair point – the study specified ‘middle-aged civil servants’ and i was making some assumptions there..

  2. I think this comes from the “common sense” vaults, really. If you poison your body it’s unlikely to want to work at it’s full potential.

    Of course other factors such as smoking, drinking, other stresses and office culture are going to have an impact too.

    I worked for the civil service for a couple of years and was on a pittance of a wage. I was earning £10k a year on the lowest rung of the ladder and definitely could not afford to eat proper meals every day. Middle aged civil servants implies that they are going to be earning a bit more.

    Thanks to the recession it seems you need to have a household income of way over £25k just to stay afloat.

    • I know that poverty is relative but for what it’s worth, as you say, it seems to make sense that being healthier, physically and mentally, is related to lifestyles – in a much broader sense than solely diet.

  3. The other point made in the article and extremely important to remember of course, is that they found a correlation not a definite cause and effect relationship. They can’t say whether the food caused depression, or whether the depression affected people’s choice of diet. We all know after a day at work when you come home tired, it is far easier to stick a processed ready meal in the microwave- or grab a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar- than cook a roast dinner. It’s the same when someone is depressed. Some food is called ‘comfort’ food for a reason!
    It was an interesting article though. especially as the use of omega fatty acids (found in large amounts in whole foods) are being tested as a treatment for mood disorders.

    • You are right and I skimmed briefly over the main points but there are interesting points to be made at the least!

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  5. Simple thing that people can do: eat right and exercise to feel better. And yet….so hard to implement if you’re crushed by depression. Plus the processed foods=cheaper is a valid point for our low income clients. Still, food for thought, as it were.

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