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5 Ways Fast Food Worsens Your Depression!

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Fast food is a staple for many people in the United States. Some reports suggest that on average, we spend a whopping $1,200.00 a year on quick eats like burgers, pizzas and fried chicken.

It has long been established that America’s addiction to fast food is a major cause of obesity. But what is the emotional impact of fast food? Can eating a double cheeseburger with fries cause depression?

The answer is a qualified – yes.

A study that was published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition revealed that folks who gobble down takeout favorites like burgers, donuts, croissants and pizzas are 51% more likely to struggle with depression compared to those rarely or never eat such foods.

There probably isn’t a one of us who hasn’t indulged in the occasional lunchtime “burger to go” or Friday night pizza with friends. And who hasn’t had at least one doughnut when a co-worker brings a box of sugary delights into the office? I know I have!

The growing body of research however, suggests that what we put into our bodies has a direct impact on how we feel.

What follows are five ways fast food can worsen your depression. Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

1. Fast food widens your waist

Many folks who live with depression already struggle with a distorted self-view. Some depressed people may turn to comfort foods in an effort to feel better. While there may be a temporary lift in mood as a result of the pleasure principle, that quick hot dog you just bought may paradoxically decrease your mood over the long term by adding unwanted weight.

2. Fast food may be addictive

Some scientists believe that fast food may be addictive in a way that qualifies junk food as a form of substance dependence. Remember that most of the time when you visit that drive through window, you are getting more than just one thing. You are likely also pulling away with a combo deal, like fries doused with salt along with a mega-sized drink. Is it any wonder why many Americans pop into a fast food establishment an average 2 times a week? Maybe it is because we are lazy or maybe because some of that food really is addictive! Are you hooked?

3. Cytokines and inflammation

The research is in and strongly indicates that folks who regularly indulge in high fat, high sugar foods are 60% more likely to experience symptoms of depression. It is believed that cytokines (small proteins released by cells) may play a role in the onset of depression as a result of brain swelling. The current research suggests that people who have elevated levels of cytokines are more likely to be depressed. Sugary, high fat foods are known to increase cytokine levels – and that’s a fact.

4. Fast food eaters less likely to exercise

We know from scientific research that depressed people who engage in regular exercise, such as resistance training, can experience mood lifting benefits and even prevent some forms of depression. If you are a fast food eater however, you are less likely to engage in depression fighting activities like physical activity and exercise. The paradox is that your already miserable mood becomes worse and can impact other mental health areas, such as body image and self-concept.

5. You feel more disconnected

Some studies suggest that people who normally identified as “happy” began to feel depression like symptoms of social withdraw, coupled with feelings of loneliness and isolation after scarfing down fast food. This may have something to do with the way saturated fats interact with heightened amygdala activity in the brain. Think about it. After you eat fast food, how social do you really feel afterwards?

fast food

Final Thoughts

Does the information presented here surprise you? Probably not! But if you are a person is trying to avoid making your depression worse – this information is good to know.

The current estimates suggest that worldwide, approximately 121 million people are affected by depression. Our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe 1 in 10 Americans report depression.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that junk food, like a mayonnaise topped double cheeseburger or a bucket of fried chicken isn’t the best of choices for improving mind body connection.

And guess what – that’s food for thought!

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5 Ways Fast Food Worsens Your Depression!

John D. Moore, PhD

Described as folksy and down to earth, Dr. John Moore infuses current events and pop culture into his posts as a way of communicating wider points on issues related to wellness and goal attainment. His work has been featured in nationally syndicated media, including Cosmo, Men's Fitness and CBS Market Watch. He is a consultant to a number of Fortune 500 companies and institutions of Higher Learning. Dr. Moore is author of Confusing Love with Obsessionand Editor in Chief at: Guy Counseling.

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APA Reference
Moore, J. (2014). 5 Ways Fast Food Worsens Your Depression!. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 10 Dec 2014
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