The BUZZ: Processed foods can cause mental issues in teens?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Teenagers who consumed a poor diet consisting mainly of junk and processed foods are more likely to suffer from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety than those who eat healthier diets.
WHAT WE KNOW
Eating loads of fruits and vegetables might not sound appealing to many teenagers. In fact, less than 10% of U.S. high school students are eating the combined recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables,
according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). This was the first report to give such detailed information on adolescents’ fruit and vegetable consumption. The information comes from a national survey of about 100,000 high school students in 2007. Read Report
These findings indicate a disheartening gap between how people should be eating and what they’re actually eating during this era of rampant obesity. What are adolescents eating instead? Pizza, salty snack foods, fried foods, sugary cereals, candy, cookies, sodas and other low-nutrient foods that not only lack essential nutrients, but new studies show these types of foods could be neurologically damaging as well!
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A study published in PLoS One analyzed the diets and mental health of 3,040 Australian teens aged 11-18 in 2005 and 2006, and then again two years later. They found that even after accounting for factors such as socio-economic status, smoking and weight, those with better diets tended to have better mental health after two years.¹
A similar study of 7,114 adolescents aged 10-14 published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that a greater self-reported consumption of unhealthy foods was associated with increased odds of self-reported depression.²
And diet is not the only factor. A recent study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that lower levels of self-reported physical activity in childhood were associated with a 35% increase in odds of self-reported depression in adulthood.³
While these studies are preliminary, we do know that eating a diet too high in fat, added sugar and calories and too low in fruits and vegetables can lead to heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. This type of diet is also a main factor in the current childhood obesity epidemic. Obesity not only affects your child’s physical health, but her/his mental health as well. In fact, obese children are at higher risk for being bullied.
Here are some easy things you can do as a parent to help decrease your child’s risk of becoming overweight … and possibly improve her/his mood!
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and veggies! See How to Plan a Balanced Diet
- Replace your high-fat, sugary snack foods with fruits and veggies—they have more vitamins and minerals and less calories! Search Our Recipes for Healthy Snacks
- Exercise! Kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise each day! Try getting your kids involved in sports or searching for other healthy activities in your local community!
- Check out the Top 10 Things Parents Can Do to fight childhood obesity.
- Take the pledge to fight childhood obesity and commit to taking positive steps in your own home … or at school.
¹ Jacka, F., P. Kremer, M. Berk, et al. “A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents.” PLoS One
(2011); 6(9); doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024805.
² Jacka, F., P. Kremer, E. Leslie, et al. “Association Between Diet Related Quality and Depressed Mood In Adolescents: Results From the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods Study.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2010); 44(5); 435-42.
³ Jacka, F., J. Pasco, L. Williams, et al. “Lower Levels of Physical Activity in Childhood Associated With Adult Depression.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2011); 14(3); 222-6.