April 25, 2023 – People who frequently eat fried food, particularly potatoes like french fries, have a higher risk of anxiety or depression, according to a new study.
Specifically, the results showed that frequent fried food consumption was linked to a 12% higher risk of anxiety and 7% higher risk of depression. Males and young people were impacted the most.
The study, published Monday in the journal PNAS, was done by researchers from Zhejiang University in China. They evaluated data for more than 140,000 people during an 11-year period.
The authors suggested that one cause could be that fried foods contain a chemical called acrylamide, which arises when some foods are cooked at very high temperatures. The researchers noted that acrylamide is linked to “anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors” related to brain inflammation.
One expert not involved in the study told CNN that the link could be that fried foods are comforting for people who are having anxiety or depression, and that the study didn’t prove causation.
“The human component of this study may indicate just what it purports: that higher intake of fried food increases the risk of anxiety/depression,” preventive and lifestyle medicine expert David Katz, MD, told CNN. “However, the causal pathway could just as readily go the other way: people with anxiety/depression turn to ‘comfort food’ with increasing frequency for some semblance of relief.”
Anxiety and depression are clinical mental illnesses. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders, affecting as many as 30% of adults at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Clinical anxiety problems differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and are instead excessive and interfere with leading a normal, productive life.
Depression, also called major depressive disorder, affects how someone feels, thinks, and acts, causing feelings of sadness or a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Depression can lead to emotional and physical problems, and it affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults annually, while 1 in 6 adults will have depression during their lifetime, the association said.