Monday, November 2, 2009

A New Take on "You Are What You Eat"

After having vented (excessive?) spleen at the United Kingdom on this basis of its warping of the semantics of "taste" through its mass media, I have to give credit where credit is due and call attention to recent research at University College London reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The research results were summarized on the BBC NEWS Web site as follows:

Eating a diet high in processed food increases the risk of depression, research suggests.

What is more, people who ate plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish actually had a lower risk of depression, the University College London team found.

Data on diet among 3,500 middle-aged civil servants was compared with depression five years later, the British Journal of Psychiatry reported.

The team said the study was the first to look at the UK diet and depression.

They split the participants into two types of diet - those who ate a diet largely based on whole foods, which includes lots of fruit, vegetables and fish, and those who ate a mainly processed food diet, such as sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.

After accounting for factors such as gender, age, education, physical activity, smoking habits and chronic diseases, they found a significant difference in future depression risk with the different diets.

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 many issues that have to be resolved to establish the significance of these findings, and they are given due attention in the remainder of the BBC report. However, if this study does little more than warrant the close coupling between physical and mental health (as was observed by Margaret Edwards of the British mental health charity SANE), it will have served a valuable purpose. Here in the United States the ABC News crew has been running a series of stories on the problem of obesity, but they have not yet taken on the dimension of any connection to mental health. I am hoping that they will pick up on this new source of data as they continue their own effort to take on the damage that the "industrial" approach to food provision is wreaking upon all of us, particularly when we are deliberately kept in ignorance of what it is we are actually consuming.

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