Reading 3 min.
in collaboration with
Arnaud Cocaul (Nutritionist)
A new US study reveals a link between large amounts of ultra-processed foods and the risk of depression. One more reason to reduce their consumption and review your diet? Decryption with nutritionist doctor Arnaud Cocaul.
More and more studies demonstrate the harmful effects of ultra-processed foods on general health: they increase the risks of premature death, cancer, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, biological aging, overweight and even obesity and autism in the unborn child. Today, a new study reveals that an overly processed diet could also promote the occurrence of depression among regular consumers.
Damage to our mental health from 9 servings per day
This conclusion comes from a large study carried out by researchers from Harvard University in particular. The eating habits of 30,000 women suffering from depression between 2003 and 2017 were scrutinized.
The authors were particularly interested in the consumption of foods, such as:
- Ultra-processed cereals;
- Sweet snacks;
- Prepared meals;
- Fats and sauces;
- Ultra-processed dairy products;
- Salty snacks;
- Processed meat;
- Beverages and artificial sweeteners.
The result: Women who consumed nine or more servings of ultraprocessed foods per day (from the list) had a 49% increased risk of depression compared to those who consumed fewer than four servings per day. Additionally, those who reduced their consumption of ultraprocessed foods by at least three servings per day had a lower risk of depression than those whose consumption was relatively stable.
“These findings suggest that high consumption of ultraprocessed foods, particularly artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened beverages, is associated with an increased risk of depression.”conclude the authors.
“Anything that modifies the intestinal microbiota can act on the nervous system”
Consulted on the subject, Dr Arnaud Cocaul, nutritionist explains this link between processed food, sweetened drinks and mental health.
“All the ingredients that come into play in the composition of processed foods, such as emulsifiers and additives, have the particularity of modifying the digestive flora and the intestinal microbiota. Likewise, synthetic sweeteners which soften the taste such as aspartame, sucralose, act on the intestinal microbiota and even modify intestinal impermeability, thus allowing substances to pass through that it should not.
And these changes are not without consequences on our mental health.
“The intestine, as we know, is connected to the central nervous system. Modifying the microbiota is therefore capable of causing damage to other organs from a distance. In addition, these foods depleted in vitamins, or whose added vitamins are not sufficient , also reduce the amount of antioxidants needed. That they increase the risk of depression, yes, it’s obvious!”
Following this observation, how can we adapt our diet?
“The current problem is that many foods are ultra-manufactured, with industrial technology that is not adapted to human technology, to what the body really needs. If you add to this the pollution in which we are immersed, you have the two major societal issues of the moment.”
NO to diets, YES to WW!
Little tips for a healthier diet
No food is “bad” as long as it brings pleasure and its consumption remains reasonable. If it is difficult for you on a daily basis to completely ban ultra-processed foods, a few simple rules allow you to choose them best:
- Avoid recipes containing partially hydrogenated fatssources of trans fatty acids (harmful from a cardiovascular point of view);
- When you have the choice between two similar products, opt for the one that has the fewest additives, is the least salty, contains rapeseed oil in preference to palm oil, contains sugar in preference to glucose or glucose fructose syrup;
- Favor products with the shortest list of ingredients;
- If possible, favor organic productsfor which the list of authorized additives is limited to 48 (compared to almost 400 in ordinary foods).
- Replace ultra-processed products as much as possible with less processed productsjust as quick to cook and pleasant to eat.