Study: Bad Food May Spur Depression

While the idea of a giant, greasy fast food burger and a plate full of fries may put a smile on your face, actually ingesting the meal may damage your psyche. Spanish researchers who tracked the dining habits of more than 12,000 people over six years found that those who ate the most trans fats — which are found in some fast food and pastries — were 48 percent more likely to become depressed.

Chicago Tribune reports the study found that those who ate more polyunsaturated fats — the type of fat found on olive oil — were less likely to become depressed.

What immediate and long-term negative effects do you notice when you eat food that’s bad for you?

Food depression: Eating bad may make you sad [Chicago Tribune]


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  1. ihatephonecompanies says:

    Correlation =/= causation

    • SpendorTheCheap says:

      “Oh, DURRRRR, that undergraduate with the business statistics 101 course tripped us up again. If only we had thought of a way of not confusing the two things, like running a SIX YEAR longitudinal study with 12000 subjects in it.”

      • Chaosium says:

        The scale of a study does not make a bad study good.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          What does make a bad study bad? Show examples in the study in question.

          If you can’t, you can’t really speak intellitently about it, can you?

          • Straspey says:

            Consider this:

            If all people who commit murder chew gum, does that mean all people who chew gum are (potential) murderers ?

            • partofme says:

              Bayes Theorem should be covered in the first statistics class that any researcher encounters. And strictly speaking, there is no theoretical way for us to prove causation. We only have correlation. Always. So, guess what? We measure correlations. Over and over again. As carefully as we can. And then we try really hard to rule out other effects. Finally, we say, “This is what we think might be going on.” And usually, we’re wrong. But that’s how it goes. Knowledge is really depressing, when you think about it. Maybe I should eat some trbl food tonight.

      • quijote says:

        You’re not quite sure how science works, are you?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Is this the default insert Consumerist comment that the study in question was done poorly despite knowing nothing about the methods used, the funding source, or even what double blind really means?

      Yup, sure is.

      • quijote says:

        The question of causation vs correlation is not a question about whether the study is good or not. It’s a question about whether the study demonstrates that, in this case, trans fats *cause* depression, rather than merely being correlated with it. Where the study (or secondary literature) fails to demonstrate a causal relation, you have to assume it is only a correlation. This means that it’s just as possible that depression causes people to eat more trans fats than non-depressed people.

        • Salty Johnson says:

          Or, perhaps, depressed people happen to be people that eat trans fatty foods. Or, perhaps, people who live a particular lifestyle where it is more convenient to eat trans fatty foods (always on the run with no time for real food, or just a lazy person with no desire to cook real food) tend to wind up depressed.

          There are scores of possible options.

      • Pax says:

        It’s the default SCIENTIFIC response, not merely a Consumerist response.

        Also, what Quijote said, right below this post.

        • partofme says:

          I just want a show of hands from all the correlation =/= causation people… how many of you will come back with that line of reasoning when we see an article built on a correlation between CO2 and global warming?

      • crazydavythe1st says:

        Correlation =/= Causation


  2. Rebecca K-S says:

    Or, you know, it might be the other way around.

  3. emax4 says:

    48 percent? I think that those who go out of their way to look at the nutritional label (if such a thing exists on food products in Spain, and are aware that trans fats exist and consume them anyway) are already depressed not to care what goes into their bodies.

  4. Meatball says:

    Uhm, maybe it’s because those that eat more trans fats are more likely to be fatter and that’s what the causing the depression.

  5. livinginpoverty...nowinsmalltownuppermidwest says:

    Depression is all about protein and omega-3 fatty acids. If you are biologically prone to depression, you need to make sure your diet allows these to get to your brain.

  6. areaman says:

    A lot of the people who eat a lot trans fats may have been messed up anyway.

    Or I can say, this is not causation.

  7. rpm773 says:

    My 91 year-old grandfather loves Red Lobster. I took him there for lunch today.

    For what it’s worth, I was pretty depressed after reading the menu.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    “I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle.” – Fat Bastard.

    Yeah we figured this out more than 10 years ago.

  9. lain1k says:

    I know it’s only anecdotal but I have suffered with bipolar disorder for years and this is spot on with what I’ve found. I finally was able to totally get off medication through exercise and eating right. When I gave up “bad” food, fast food in particular, I had lot less anxiety and depression.

    • thepqz says:

      Could it be that you felt more confident about yourself when you gave up the fast food, and felt guilty when you fell back on it? For example, I am very happy when I run regularly, and I am not happy when I skip it regularly, but that doesn’t mean that being happy makes me run.

  10. Pooterfish says:

    There could also be something to the way trans fats are delivered. Maybe people are happier eating foods they’ve prepared themselves around a dinner table with friends, as opposed to food of questionable quality eaten off a plastic table surrounded by strangers in a fast food joint.

  11. Thassodar says:

    “I eat because I’m fat…I’m fat because I eat…”
    -Fat Bastard

  12. haggis for the soul says:

    I have anecdotally found this to be true. The problem with bad food, though, is that eating it seems to spur you to eat more of it, and it can be tough to break the cycle. Add depression to the mix and it’s even worse.

  13. GMurnane says:

    (Warning: anecdotal evidence supporting opinion) The biggest consumers of unhealthy food I know personally have legitimate reasons for their depression. Is it possible they eat unhealthy food because they are depressed? I think eating too much unhealthy food is more likely to be a symptom rather than a cause of depression.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Your disclaimer earns a gold star of approval from me (see my title for why).

  14. SpendorTheCheap says:

    For all people who think you’re being clever by rewording “correlation doesn’t equal causation”. . .


    They didn’t survey 12000 people and ask them what they ate, and how they felt. They ran a study that lasted for 6 years. They have baseline measurements on the subjects of the study. If the RESEARCHERS (not the Chicago Tribune) are stating that eating crappy food increases your risk of depression, believe me (as a statistician). . .they aren’t getting confused between correlation and causation.

    • BeastMasterJ says:

      Exactly. These guys are highly qualifed scientists, and know better than to use less than scientific measurements to achive results that match their hypothesis. That’s why in my household we switched from butter to the healthier margerine.

      Now if you excuse me, I have to let my kids’ school know that I didn’t get them the MMR vacination becuase I don’t want them coming down with Autism!


      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Using a single example to make a sweeping generalization about a group?

        Way to go. You just illustrating how you are NOT a scientist, but a citizen. A lowly, poorly-education and clearly angry citizen.

        One example /= scientific research. It says so right there next to my name. But thanks for playing.

        • Salty Johnson says:

          He actually listed TWO such examples. Salty Johnson reminds you that scientific research does not always equal scientific fact, and the entire basis of SCIENCE is that we continue to question what we “know” to be “right” until the end of time.

    • cspschofield says:

      The problem isn’t the scientists who, having found an interesting correlation, will (presumably) start looking for a mechanism by studying how trans-fats in the system affect the brain. The problem is the buttinskis who will half-understand what they read in a digest of the study in a newspaper story and then start pushing for legislation based on their misunderstanding.

  15. Hungry Dog says:

    Having a bowl of ketchup packet soup salted by ones own tears can make anyone depressed.

  16. Kat@Work says:

    I make my own depression at home.

  17. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    I would think if you spread out a study over a lengthy amount of time….the numbers surprisingly change. I would like to know about the years leading up to year 6.

    I think I will do a study on whether or not people like loosing their homes and jobs…I bet it will damage your psyche too…but I better wait the results till the test is done in 6 years….

  18. dangermike says:

    I see a lot of comments on causation/correlation and while I would have to say that I’ll usually be the first to question dubious conclusions, in that case, I fully agree with the article’s title. I’m performing my own study, consisting of exactly one individual: me. I decided to make some changes in my life and really focus on losing the weight I’ve put on since I was in college. The first part of my plan, which has been in implementation for the past month was to completely cut out all soda, eat only salads for lunch, replace high glycemic carb sources with low, and pay attention to what I make for dinner (caloric restrictions have all but precluded fast food and junk food, as well). Within days, and this was unexpected, I realized I was walking taller, feeling stronger, and feeling more alert. The typical afternoon doldrums at work greatly abated, as well.I don’t know that I would have called myself depressed before but now I realize that I probably was. And I would have been skeptical to my own story, had I not lived it.

  19. Draw2much says:

    Did they start with healthy none depressed people who don’t eat much fatty foods? Because if they didn’t, I don’t see how this study could conclusively (or even suggestively) say anything. All it seems to be saying is that their is a connection between depression and fatty foods. And rather than it being a cause, it’s likely fatty foods are a symptom of the depression. Certain people deal with their stress and unhappiness by eating, and of those people a certain number bing on unhealthy foods. (Now why they do that would be an interesting study!)

    For this study to work they need find healthy happy people who have stable lives. Then they need to have them eat fatty foods in equal proportions as a depressed person does. If depression occurs –and the only change in that person life is their diet–then yes, I think there’d be a legitimate link. But that doesn’t seem to be how they did it, so…

    I dunno, doesn’t prove or say anything new or interesting one way or the other.

    • Pax says:

      Or possibly, the fatty foods are a CO-symptom, alongside depression.

      Of what, you ask?

      Well, one possibility is … poverty. Cheap foods are also often fatty and unhealthy foods.

      And trust me: being frikin’ poor, is a good reason to be depressed.

  20. Kibit says:

    I don’t like the articles title

    Food depression: Eating bad may make you sad [Chicago Tribune]

    Depression is a whole lot more than feeling sad. I’ve had depression and I wasn’t always sad. There is so much more to it than that.

  21. Kibit says:

    The article mentions that fast food and pastries contain trans fats. ALMOST EVERYTHING AT THE GROCERY STORE CONTAINS TRANS FATS. Unless you are checking every single ingredient on the nutrition label, eating organic food or do not eat any processed foods whatsoever including bread then you are most likely eating trans fats.

    It isn’t just fat people that eat trans fats, almost everyone does. And it isn’t just fat people that have depression, many, mant people do.

  22. texty says:

    hr s hnt… th r mr lkl t b dprssd bcs th r mr lkl t b ft pcs f wrthlss sht.

    • kabamm says:


    • Papa Bear says:

      Your assumption that being fat makes a person a worthless shit demonstrates a degree of ignorance and intolerance that can only be expected from the least intelligent, most worthless sort of sub-humans.

  23. Papa Bear says:

    These findings are completely plausible and go to demonstrate that even if the foods themselves are not the cause of the depression, that the avoidance of the foods may just help in the treatment of depression.

    Foods, whether they be found in nature or entirely manufactured are chemical substances. We know that our bodies each have their own unique, albeit very similar, chemical composition and that if that composition is altered, that alteration can cause physical and emotional problems. This why medications, booze and illicit drugs work, but not all work the same on all people. Hence, the ingestion of certain foods may well have depressive effects on some people – even on a large number of people.

    So, the study is valid because it demonstrates a relationship between trans-fatty foods and depression in 48% of the people studied. There may well be numerous other factors to consider such as why those people eat those foods, but the validity of the study stands for this point.