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More than 70% of packaged foods in the United States are classified as
and these account for about 60% of all calories consumed, say the authors of a study, published in July 2022 in the journal
which shows that people who eat a lot of these foods tend to feel depressed or anxious more often.
Ultra-processed foods are convenient, inexpensive, quick to prepare, or ready-to-eat, but their ultra-processing “
depletes their nutritional value and also increases the calorie count, as they tend to be high in added sugar, saturated fat, and salt, while being low in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals», explains Eric Hecht of the Florida Atlantic University.
They are the result of important “physical, biological and chemical processes” which create products deficient in original and natural foods. They also usually contain additives such as flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers and other additives with a cosmetic function. (What is “cracking” that denatures food?)
Hecht and his colleagues conducted this study with a nationally representative sample of the United States population. They assessed depression as well as the number of days with low morale or anxiety in 10,359 people from a national survey.
The researchers used the NOVA food classification, a widely used system recently adopted by theFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. NOVA takes into account the nature, extent and purpose of food processing in order to classify them into four groups: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods and ultra-processed foods. transformed.
Compared to people who ate the least amount of ultra-processed foods, those who ate the most were 80% more likely to have symptoms of mild or more severe depression. The number of days per month they did not feel mentally fit was 20% higher and the number of days they felt anxious was 19% higher.
This study does not demonstrate that the observed links are causal in nature, one explanation for these links may be that people with low morale are less inclined to cook and prepare healthy foods. But, although more research is needed, including randomized clinical trials, these data add important and relevant information to a growing body of evidence regarding the negative effects of eating ultra-processed foods on mental health, the researchers conclude.
These results are in fact consistent with various studies that have shown links between diet and depression, including some randomized intervention trials.
Studies have also linked processed foods to several diseases, accelerated aging and premature mortality.
One solution, not always easy to implement, is to cook more. (Cooking: the psychological benefits)
For more information on ultra-processed foods as well as diet and depression, see the links below.
Psychomedia with sources: Florida Atlantic University, Public Health Nutrition.
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