Study: Gen Z Most Likely Generation to Report Poor Mental Health

Fast food could increase depression risk among middle schoolers, study says

Depression is on the rise among youth, and their diets could be the blame, according to a new report.

» RELATED: Teens who can describe negative emotions are better protected against depression, study suggests

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently conducted a small study, published in Physiological Reports, to explore the association between fast food and depression. 

“Depression among adolescents in the United States has increased by 30 percent over the last decade, and we wanted to know why and how to decrease this number,” co-author Sylvie Mrug said in a statement.

For the assessment, the team examined 84 middle schoolers from urban, low-income communities. Most were African American. 

The participants provided urine samples. They also reported any depressive symptoms they experienced at the beginning of the evaluation and a year and a half later.

» RELATED: Study: A healthy diet can help with symptoms of depression

After analyzing the results, the scientists found those with high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in their urine were more likely to suffer from depression, compared to those with low levels of sodium and high levels of potassium.

They also said high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium, which is in an indicator of a poor diet, predicted depression among adolescents over time. 

The researchers said teens should avoid highly processed food, including fast food, and should instead consume fruits and vegetables daily.

“The age-old saying, ‘eat your fruits and vegetables’ comes to mind,” co-author Paul Sanders added. “Although changing diet in this way takes money and effort, it has many health benefits, including improved mental health, as shown in our study.”

This isn’t the first study to link nutritious foods with mental health. 

Scientists from the University of Manchester and analyzed health data from almost 46,000 people. They discovered a healthy diet can reduce the symptoms associated with depression.

» RELATED: All teens need to be screened for depression, American pediatricians urge

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