Junk Food and Depression – What’s the Link?

by | Food, Mind | 0 comments

“If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.” Quote by Sally Edwards

Whether you are walking around the centre of Melbourne, Moscow or Manchester, it won’t be too long until you come across a fast food restaurant filled with people having a meal. Our love affair with fast food, which has been growing ever since the first chains appeared in the United States, shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

Staying healthy is something that most of us try to stay on top of, but cravings for junk food happen to even the most disciplined people.

Why is that?

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One of the main reasons is that the high amount of sugar, fat, and salt content in fast food triggers a chemical reaction in our brains and neurons which results in a temporary “high.” Dopamine and serotonin are two endorphins which are released to elevate our mood.

On a very instinctive level, humans crave these foods because they make us feel extremely content.

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The Bliss Point

The “Bliss Point” is a concentration of different nutrients in the body which combine to make us feel happy when we are eating. Different people have different levels when it comes to their own bliss point. For example, one person’s reaction may be triggered by a simple baked potato with cheese, whilst someone else may need six muffins and three cups of coffee!

Food scientists have done a lot of research into the Bliss Point, and this information is used by food manufacturers. junk foodNowadays, cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets are made to an exact specification in order to make sure that the Bliss Point is reached as quickly as possible. Fast food manufacturing is not just a process; it is a *science*. Recipes are constantly being adjusted in order to maximise the potential of the Bliss Point. The fast food companies are unwilling to share their methods so readily – which makes sense considering how many of them talk about their “secret recipe.”

What Happens After The Bliss Point Has Been Reached?

We have already talked about how eating fast food causes a rush of endorphins. But, as the old saying goes, “what goes up must come down.” Once the receptors in the brain have emptied themselves of endorphins, this can leave you lacking in energy. Even worse, it can cause your mood to crash. Have you ever felt that way after eating fast food?

Comfort Eating and Depression

Whether it is running, playing computer games, or gardening, we can become addicted to certain things. The same is true of junk food. This happens because our bodies can get used to having high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat on a regular basis. Comfort eating happens when people use food in order to deal with feelings of stress or anxiety – but the comedown from eating fast food could actually make these feelings worse.

In the documentary, Supersize Me, the filmmaker Morgan Spurlock claimed that during his high-fat and sugar-rich diet he started to experience persistent low moods.

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Weight Gain and Depression

Currently, over two billion people worldwide are overweight. The availability of cheap fast food is a factor in this. Excessive weight gain can cause a wide range of health problems, from heart attacks to gout. Poor health can lead people to become depressed. It took Morgan Spurlock fourteen months to get back down to his normal weight, which affected his mental health.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The gut-brain axis is the link between gut health and the central nervous system. Research suggests that poor gut health (such as inflammation or excess gas) is directly linked to feelings of anxiety and depression.

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The ingredients in fast food have been linked to drastic changes in gut health. That is why it is important to eat food which will aid your gut bacteria. Try eating things like blueberries, broccoli, and bananas for maximum gut health.

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I Think I Eat Too Much Fast Food – What Should I Do?

If you are worried about the amount of fast food you are eating, help is always at hand. You might want to get in touch with a dietitian who will help you work out some healthy meal plans.

You could be tempted to “pull the plug” completely on your fast food diet, but suddenly cutting fast food completely out of your diet could cause you experience low moods. Instead, why not start by gradually cutting down the number of days in a week that you go to McDonald’s or Burger King?

Your taste buds will still be craving sugar and salt, so try and find some healthy alternatives which can replace burgers, soft drinks, and French fries. Sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, and almonds are good substitutes.

What do you think about the link between junk food and depression? Leave a comment here or head over to our Facebook page here.


“What Is Bliss Point Beside The Reason You Are Addicted To Doritos?”: https://www.theblot.com/what-bliss-point-besides-reason-addicted-doritos-7716219

“What Are Endorphins?”: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/endorphins2.htm

“After Supersize Me: In Conversation With Morgan Spurlock”: http://civileats.com/2010/11/16/after-super-size-me-in-conversation-with-morgan-spurlock/

“The Brain-Gut Connection”: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

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