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Junk foodSeveral eons ago man came to the conclusion that ‘he is what he eats’; in other words his health is closely connected to his diet. However, recent studies have shown that not only is physical health affected by diet, so too is the mental state.

Who has not heard about ‘feel-good’ foods? For some, it may be chocolate and for others a cup of coffee. But what about the fatty stuff we so lovingly devour, especially the ones that comes in the form of junk food?

Recent studies have shown an increased risk of depression in junk food eaters. In fact, compared to people who eat little or none, habitual consumers of junk food are 51% more likely to develop depression. And the worst part is that as depression increases, so does the eating and it sets into a vicious cycle.

The million dollar question is, why do we eat what we eat? Almost all fatty foods, through a complex mechanism, increase the production of the stress hormone corticosterone and also cause a change in the proteins responsible for the ‘feel-good’ effect.

According to a comprehensive study published in Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, certain foods can lead to clinical depression that requires medication to cure. Furthermore, after 12 years of tracking the diet habits of 43,000 women, none of whom had depression at the beginning of the study, researchers concluded that women who consumed chips, cola drinks, cookies, pasta, red fatty meat and white bread and indulged heartily in junk food, were 29 to 41% more likely to develop clinical depression.

Consuming a high-fat diet takes its toll on both mental and physical health; chronic ailments like diabetes and hypertension, which result from a high-fat diet, are also known to cause depression.

There is a fine line between the blues and clinical depression, one that is quite easy to cross. The choice, as always, is yours.

– Summaiya Syed Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner at the Police Surgeon Office, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 8, 2013.