Dieticians link fried food consumption to anxiety, depression

Nutrition experts have cautioned that frequent consumption of fried foods can contribute to or worsen mental health, noting that it has a contaminant known as acrylamide which could trigger anxiety or depression.

Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking.

The dieticians were reacting to a new study that suggested that there is a link between frequent consumption of fried foods and higher instances of anxiety and depression.

The study conducted by researchers from Zhejiang University in China, and published in the journal PNAS suggested that people who frequently eat fried foods, particularly potatoes like french fries, have a higher risk of anxiety or depression.

Reacting to the study, the experts noted that consuming excessive amounts of foods with saturated fat affects the homeostasis of the whole body, including brain health. Homeostasis, experts say, is the state of steady internal, physical, chemical, and social conditions maintained by living systems.

The nutrition experts noted that consuming a diet high in processed and fried foods can increase inflammation in the body and contribute to the development of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

The experts, a Nutritionist and founder of Lagos Food Bank Initiative, Similoluwa Olorunleke, and a specialist Dietitian and Nutriprenuer, Deborah Onoja told PUNCH Healthwise that there is a significant link between people’s diet and their mood.

Olorunleke noted that frequent consumption of fried food can increase a person’s risk of obesity and hyperlipidemia, adding that such a person can also develop heart disease and neurological disorders.

She stated further that eating fried foods can also lead to a decreased level of satiety and make an individual anxious.

She said, “There is a huge link between food and moods, because from research over the years, when diagnosing depression and other mental health conditions, one of the most basic signs is changes in feeding patterns. When people are happy or sad, it affects their food choices, in terms of what they eat, how they eat, and the quantity of food they consume.

“A major danger related to the consumption of foods high in saturated fat is the risk of atherosclerosis which is when fat builds up in the blood vessels and causes arteries to harden. This condition can lead to ischemic stroke.

“To reduce the complications associated with the consumption of fried foods a diet rich in micronutrients, fiber, and the right amount of macronutrients is advised and saturated fats should be replaced with healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acid which can be found in foods like salmon, walnuts, etc.”

She, however, noted that food cooking methods also play a significant role, saying, “A diet that contains all the essential micronutrients and macronutrients is always advised but it is also important to note that cooking methods also have an impact on the health of an individual, cooking methods followed should be ones that are nutrient preserving.”

In her contribution, Onoja said consuming fried foods regularly may also increase a person’s risk of developing certain cancers, such as prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer.

On how to reduce the consumption of fried food, the dietician said people should consider baking, broiling, grilling, or sautéing their food instead of frying it.

She added, “If you do fry your food, use healthy oils such as olive oil or avocado oil, and limit your portion sizes. Additionally, incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats into your diet can help offset the negative effects of fried food consumption.

“Eating fried food frequently can be dangerous for your health, particularly if you consume large portions or use unhealthy oils for frying. Fried foods are high in calories, fat, and salt, which can increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

“In addition to moderating your fried food intake, I recommend maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, staying physically active, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep. If you have any specific health concerns or dietary restrictions, it may also be helpful to consult with a registered dietitian who can help you develop a personalised nutrition plan.”

Meanwhile, the researchers in the new study after examining data from more than 140,000 people during 11 years found that frequent fried food consumption was linked to a 12 per cent higher risk of anxiety and a 7 per cent higher risk of depression.

A potential contributing factor, according to the new study, could be the presence of the chemical acrylamide in fried foods, which is produced when some foods are cooked at extremely high temperatures.

The researchers pointed to a substance called acrylamide as the potential cause for this association between fried foods and depression and anxiety.

This contaminant was shown to trigger neuroinflammation and lipid metabolism disturbance, which can affect mental health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said acrylamide can form in plant-based foods like potatoes during “high-temperature cooking,” such as frying, roasting, and baking.

According to the FDA, acrylamide has also been shown to cause cancer in animals when they’re exposed to very high doses, but it’s not exactly clear what risk it poses to humans.


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