This article is free of opinion and bias, and is based solely on science and accredited media reports. No medical advice is offered herein on the part of the author. All listed theories and facts within this article are fully-attributed to several medical experts, scientists, and media outlets, including Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ABC News, The New York Post, MentalHealth.org, CNN.com, TheGuardian.com, Healthline.com, Dr. David L. Katz, Dr. Andrew Freeman, and Dr. Alethea Turner.
For further perspective, I am a former mental health professional with training in Psychology. Though I left the field to become a full-time writer, I have continued my studies in the mental health realm.
Earlier this week, the New York Post published a story that called new attention to the role of fast food on depression-related mental health issues. See here for that January 12, 2022 story, entitled “10 Ways Fast Food is Making You Depressed and Slowly Killing You,” by Features Editor Hannah Sparks.
From the article: More than one-third of American adults — that’s an estimated 36.6% of the US population — scarf down drive-thru goodies on a daily basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its notably addictive qualities have fueled epidemic levels of obesity and other illness linked to poor diet globally, while known to impair immune and hormone function, and ultimately shaving years off one’s life if consumed on a regular basis.
The article bases its contentions on various recent studies, the collective of which, according to the Post, have derived a similar conclusion: fast food, junk food, and the like are deleterious to one’s health.
This may not be news to many, as medical professionals and other experts have been studying the issue for many years. What has been re-engaged of late, however, is a national dialog specifically linking fast food to depression.
On Food and Mental Health
In Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Alethea Turner’s 2012 ABC News report, “Unhappy Meals: Are Fast Food, Depression Linked?” the author quotes Dr. David L. Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center: “Higher intake of fast food may very well increase risks of depression by causing poor health in general," Katz said. "But depression may also increase fast food intake."
The article goes on to state: Katz suggested that other factors may also be at play. Poverty, for example, is linked to both fast food intake and mental health problems.
In fact, innumerable studies over several years directly link social standing to fast food habits, which in turn frequently leads to obesity and other common unhealthful after-effects both physical and mental.
Those studies are discussed in the following outlets, among others:
- “Diet and Mental Health” from MentalHealth.org, September, 2021
- “Fast Food May Contribute to Teen Depression, Study Says” from CNN.com, August, 2019
- “Eating Junk Food Raises Risk of Depression Says Mutli-Country Study” from TheGuardian.com, September, 2018
- “Fast Food ‘Linked to Depression’” from NicsWell.co.uk, date unknown
Many fast food chains presently serve plant-based versions of their most popular entrees in an effort to meet consumer demand for healthier options. See here for my NewsBreak article, “Is Fast Food Today Healthier Than in the Past?”
As with any other fast food, doctors advise consumers of the industry’s plant-based product to be mindful of their intake. A piece for Healthline.com, entitled “Vegan Options at Fast-Food Restaurants Still Aren’t Healthy. Here’s Why,” quotes Dr. Andrew Freeman, cardiologist and director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health. “I think plant-based ‘meats’ are a step in the right direction,” he says, “but they really are too high fat and processed to be healthful on a regular basis. The downside is that these products, while very tasty, are probably not very healthful for regular consumption.“
As a specific example, the article compares KFC’s new plant-based chicken sandwich — the Imposter Burger — to its regular version: The meatless burger is similar in terms of fat and caloric content, with less protein, more carbohydrates, and more salt.
See here for Healthline.com piece.
The data is substantial and across the board. Diet and nutrition greatly impact overall wellness.
It has not been a secret over the years that fast food has been unhealthy in abundance. Many of the offerings are highly-processed, and high in saturated fats and salt. Recent plant-based options, while considered a step in the right direction, still require decreases in their unhealthful ingredients, doctors say.
Fast food is most likely here to stay. As with anything we ingest, based on studies clearly discretion is key.
Thank you for reading.
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