Depression and Food- Hand in Hand
Depression affects more than 15 million Americans aged 18 and older. It is well known that depression often comes hand in hand with other medical conditions such as obesity, coronary artery disease, diabetes, etc. It becomes a situation of “which came first” – the depression or the other medical conditions? Despite the answer to this, one thing is for sure …we have got to make some changes! According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 11% of Americans over the age of 12 are taking antidepressant medication. 23% of women aged 40-69 are taking antidepressants and they are the most commonly prescribed medication for Americans aged 18-44.
As stated in Dr Thomas Campbell’s article for the Center for Nutrition Studies, there is much more to this than just feeling depressed. As he describes, most of us are aware of the cycle of eating too much food and unhealthy food to battle feelings of depression, sadness, guilt, anxiety, etc. We understand how depression leads many people to poor food choices. But how many people are aware of how our food choices can cause depression?
A study by Wang et al, in the Journal of Addictive Diseases discussed how obesity suppresses Dopamine pathways. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s reward and pleasure center. When the dopamine receptors are suppressed (as found in obesity), more stimulus from food and sugars are needed to feel satisfied. Furthermore, diets full of sugar can alter the pathways that regulate happiness. Through these mechanisms obesity and specific food choices can contribute to depression. Dr Thomas Campbell also reviewed two other studies which found that older patients with depression, who adhered to a more plant based diet reported less symptoms. He goes on to remind us that although we may be “eating our feelings” we are also “feeling what we eat”. Replacing high sugar and meat products with more vegetables, fruits and legumes will not only help prevent cancer, obesity and diabetes, but we will also feel happier. We have more control over our mental (and physical) health than we give ourselves credit for. Make a change…it’s never too late to feel good!
(If you are taking anti-depressant medication please consult with your doctor before making any changes.)