Eating Fast Food Contributes To Teen Depression, According To New Study

depressed teen

A high fast-food, low plant-based diet could be responsible for teen depression and anxiety. Psychiatric stress in teenagers is on the rise, and the food they eat could be what's behind it.

Teenagers are suffering from psychiatric problems in growing numbers. Our kids are facing increased depression, psychological distress, and suicidal thoughts. Children as young as 12 have seen a 52% increase of major depressive episodes among kids over the last twelve years. Teens and young adults over age 17 saw a 63% increase.

An unhealthy diet could be behind this disturbing trend.

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The image displays a teenage girl leaning against a school wall all alone as she glances over her shoulder.
Credit: iStock

According to a new study, teens who suffer from depression generally consume a diet high in sodium and processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables. The research suggests a  link between a poor diet and depression rates, but it cannot confirm direct causation.

84 middle school girls and boys participated in the study, 95% of whom were African-American from low-income homes. The researchers found high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in their urine samples.

High levels of sodium indicate a diet with lots of fast-food and processed food. Low levels of potassium suggest a lack of healthy foods like beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, avocados, yogurt, and salmon.

The children and their parents participated in phone interviews where they answered questions about depression symptoms.

The researchers repeated the urine samples and interviews a year and a half later. The results show that a diet high in sodium and low in nutritionally dense foods led to more depression symptoms 18 months later.

Past studies have found a similar link between fast and processed foods and depression in adults. A study in Spain found a 48% higher risk of depression in those who ate more highly processed foods.

A meta-analysis of research from the United States, Spain, France, Australia, Greece and Iran also found a strong correlation between diet and depression. According to their results, consuming a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of depression.

Teenagers who add nutritionally dense foods to their diet in place of highly processed options will experience better mental health overall.

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