Trans Fats Cause Depression

A study on diet-related depression warns in particular about pro-inflammatory trans fats, which are produced by the hardening of vegetable oils and are found in many industrially produced foods.

Depression: The Fast Food Blues

Even the healthiest of us eaters have encountered fast food at one point or another in our lives.

Many may also remember with horror the dull feeling left by ready-made pizza, French fries, donuts, and the like. There is no comparison to the noticeable energy that a salad rich in vital substances releases in us!

The sad truth is that more and more people in the western world are consuming these low-quality, processed foods on a daily basis.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the human organism sooner or later resigns to the regular bombardment of chemical ingredients such as preservatives, flavor enhancers, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners, saturated fatty acids, and trans fats. The “junk food blues” seems to be turning into depression for many consumers.

With an estimated 120 million people suffering from depression worldwide, scientists are investigating the connection between eating habits and mental disorders.

A study on diet-related depression warns in particular about pro-inflammatory trans fats, which are produced by the hardening of vegetable oils and are found in many industrially produced foods.

Depression from trans fats

Scientists from the Universities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Granada confirmed the increased risk of depression from the consumption of fast food and commercial baked goods. Almost 9,000 test subjects took part in the six-month study, which was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition in the spring of 2012.

It found that subjects who ate highly processed foods during the study were 51 percent more likely to develop depression.

The head of the study, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, therefore urgently warned against eating hamburgers, French fries, croissants, donuts, and similar industrial products. The more of it consumed, the greater the likelihood of an illness.

“Eating even small amounts of these foods is associated with a significantly higher risk of developing depression,” according to the researcher.

Of the highly processed ingredients and additives commonly found in junk food, researchers blame trans fats for depression. Because these industrial fats would promote certain inflammatory substances in the body (interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein) and disrupt the neurotransmitters in the brain, which ultimately affects our mood.

The renowned American physician Dr. Andrew Weil is convinced that depression is a result of inflammation in the body, which can be triggered by trans fats, among others:

“The fats found in junk food may well contribute to depression because they are pro-inflammatory.”

Trans Fats – A Hidden Assault on Health

In addition to their pro-inflammatory and thus depression-promoting properties, five grams of trans fats per day are said to set the course for future heart diseases.

Industrial fats have a double negative effect on the cholesterol level because they not only increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol but also lower the “good” HDL cholesterol. Additional scientific research draws parallels between trans fats and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and allergies.

And that’s not all! According to research from Harvard University, trans fats impair the hormonal balance of women. As little as 2 percent trans fats in the diet could double the risk of female infertility.

This observation led Dr. Jorge Chavarro to the blocking effect of trans fats on a molecule important for ovulation and fertilization. But even if the desire to have children comes true, the health risk from trans fats in the womb is not banned. Because prenatal nutrition can disrupt the development of the unborn child. Motor functions and the learning center in the brain are particularly affected.

Above all, fried products such as French fries, chips, and donuts should therefore be avoided as a matter of principle, because trans fats are mainly found in the partially hydrogenated fats of such products. But dairy products, sausages, margarine, instant soups, biscuits, granola bars, and breakfast cereals can also contain trans fats.

Omega-3 fatty acids instead of trans fats

While trans fats can contribute to depression, omega-3 fatty acids are considered natural antidepressants. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have confirmed that omega-3 fatty acids contain powerful antidepressant components and can improve brain performance.

From the class of omega-3 fatty acids, the research team led by Dr. John M. Davis the polyunsaturated fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as the most effective active ingredient against moodiness, which may even make psychotropic drugs superfluous.

“Our analysis clarifies why this particular omega-3 fatty acid works in people with depression. The special formula of EPA is crucial for therapeutic measures”, explained Davis.

In turn, people with an omega-3 deficiency are at risk of developing depression. Davis explained this fact with the fact that about a quarter of the dry matter in our brain is made up of omega-3 fatty acids and corresponding deficiencies lead to malfunctioning of the brain cells, which can cause depression. For example, studies have shown that women with omega-3 deficiencies tend to become depressed during and after pregnancy.

Diet as an antidepressant

Stand up against depression by avoiding trans fats and thus all processed foods and instead integrating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Vegetable omega-3 sources such as hemp oil, linseed oil, and olive oil are preferable to polluted sea fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, herring). These vegetable oils contain a lot of alpha-linolenic acids, which the body converts into effective omega-3 fatty acids.

But not only the right fats have an impact on our mental health. In general, take nature as a role model when it comes to nutritional issues. Because the more natural a food is, the less likely it is to pose a health risk.

Whole, organic foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that are rich in antioxidants and B vitamins can help prevent depression as anti-inflammatory foods.

In addition to the protective effect of certain vital substances, a balanced lifestyle is of course crucial for the psyche: Enjoy the sunny side of life with a natural diet, sufficient exercise in the fresh air, and positive social connections!

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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