The link between fast food and teen depression

link between fast food and teen depression

Most people inevitably eat something at some point or another that they later regret. Take for example children and their common craving for sweets. During the teenage years, many will eat foods that are unhealthy. There are fewer consequences due to the high metabolism of adolescents, though foods with little nutritional value can still lead to some unhealthy side effects. Continuing this behavior into adulthood can lead to further health consequences later in life. A new study finds that there is a link between eating fast food and developing symptoms of depression.

Nutrition findings

Research has been published in the Public Health Nutrition journal and has shown that there is a greater likelihood of depression among fast food eaters, increasing odds by about 50 percent. Those who eat the most fast food have also been shown to have higher instances of being single, poor eating habits and less active lifestyles. Such people are also more commonly smokers and working more hours than a standard 40-hour work week.

On the contrary, a Mediterranean diet has been demonstrated to have a number of related health benefits, as it includes fruits, vegetables and seafood. Certain nutrients and vitamins also naturally enhance health. For instance, the natural properties found in low fat or non-fat milk, as opposed to the high sugar levels commonly found in soda. Of course, some teens do not like the taste of a certain food that provides a necessary nutrient, so they can also take a supplement or vitamin instead.

Related research on the subject also found that commercial baked goods also increased the odds of depression. In addition, the more unhealthy foods that an individual consumed, the more he or she is likely to develop depression. Teens in high school, for example, could be hungry and for whatever reason and have no choice but to pick up fast food when they are pressed for time. This could contribute to problems with depression, especially if it happens often. Therefore, it is important to consider healthier options when eating on the run, as some fast food places are enhancing their menus to reflect a healthier cuisine.

Compromising fast food options

When going out to eat, teens can greatly improve their odds of avoiding depression by eating meals that are not fried. For instance, a plain baked potato is considerably healthier than french fries for this reason. Many fast food restaurants offer a fried chicken or fried fish sandwich option. Though fish can be an especially lean source of protein, having a fried fish sandwich will unfortunately sacrifice some of the nutrients. Grilled fish sandwiches have become available recently, but a grilled chicken sandwich can also be a healthier option as well. It also helps when restaurants offer low-carb options and salads, giving people an opportunity to select healthier choices.

Of course, the healthiness of a salad dressing, if used, should be considered. Ranch, blue cheese and thousand island are often richer options if not low fat, though a light balsamic vinaigrette or a similar dressing can be healthier if available, but many dressings are also excessive in sugar content. Avocados can also offer healthier fats in a salad. If a person opts to include butter or  margarine on dinner rolls or mayonnaise on a burger, this should be done in moderation. Same when it comes to adding salt to fries.

Going super sized

If a teen does plan to eat fast food, practicing moderation and only eating it occasionally will be beneficial to future mental health. In his 2004 documentary, “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but items from McDonald’s for one month, demonstrating how over consumption of fast food is damaging to one’s health. Spurlock also stated something of a disclaimer at the end of the film, making the point that while eating nothing but McDonald’s could be seen as absurd, there are still customers that eat it on a daily basis.

Since being released, McDonald’s has since made significant alterations to its menu. However, the company denied that “Super Size Me” played a role in this decision. Regardless, the restaurant did eliminate the Super Size option for meals soon after the film’s release. Since then, McDonald’s has offered menu items intended to be more health conscious. Of course, some other fast food businesses have taken a different strategy by intentionally offering unhealthy meals with high caloric counts. These companies tend to target consumers who are unconcerned with eating healthily, especially teens.

Depression and treatment

Though a number of different causes can lead to depression, it is true that proper diet and exercise can have positive impacts on health. In cases of depression, the patient may also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy or medications such as antidepressants. Perhaps during treatment, a patient who has eaten a steady diet of fast food can get in the habit of consuming a healthier cuisine. By managing diet and also taking appropriate supplements, an adolescent can have much better odds of lifelong physical and mental health. Contact White River Academy today to see how we can help improve your teen’s health at 866-520-0905.

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