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High trans fat diet increases risk of depression


A group of Spanish scientists have discovered a link between eating too much trans fat and an increased risk of depression. The research suggests that consuming harmful high trans fats can put you in a low mood. Findings of the study are published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Trans-fats are modified vegetable fats used to extend the shelf life of food products such as fast foods, pastries, cakes and biscuits. Previous studies have clearly shown these fats to be linked to elevated levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and have also strongly established their association with the risk of heart disease.

The new research, led by Almudena Sanchez-Villegas from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, tracked the lifestyles, illnesses, and dietary intake of a group of 12,059 Spanish participants over a period of six years. Their findings showed a 48 percent increase in depression risk among those whose diet consisted of more than 0.6 percent of calories from trans fats, such as those found in cheese, milk or processed foods, compared to those who consumed almost no trans fats in their diet.

By the end of the study period, a total of 657 subjects developed depression. These individuals were described by the researchers as being "dose dependent" as they routinely consumed the highest amount of trans fats and saturated fats that put them at the highest risk of becoming depressed.

However, good news also comes from the new research. According to Villegas, eating a heart-healthy diet that includes olive oil can lower the risk of depression. Findings of the study showed that the consumption of polyunsaturated fats such as those found in fish and olive oil was found to be linked to a significant reduction in the risk for depression. Villegas reported, “The participants with an olive oil consumption higher than 20 grams a day (about 0.7 ounces) had a 30percent lower risk of depression than those without consumption or with a very low consumption of olive oil.”

According to the researchers, this is the first study to analyze the effects of dietary fat on depression. They pointed out that the research may help to explain why southern Europeans tend to be less depressed than northern Europeans, since the population in the UK and other northern European countries are more likely to consume foods with saturated and trans-fats. The researchers also noted that the effects of trans fats on mood may be even greater among Americans since about 2.5 percent of energy intake in the American diet is trans fat with the majority coming from artificial foods, whereas the most of the trans fats consumed by the Spanish study participants contributed only 0.4 percent of total energy and came mainly from milk and cheese.

The clear message here is for individuals to cut back on the consumption of dairy, processed, and fast foods. By following a Mediterranean type diet that is rich in healthy ingredients such as fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and olive oil, you can preserve your energy as well as your health.

By Drucilla Dyess

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