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Fried food, especially French fries, linked to anxiety, depression

Fried food consumption was associated with higher risks for anxiety and depression, according to findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Kalie Vandewater, Healio, Apr 25, 2023

"There is mounting evidence demonstrating the importance of dietary factors in the development and progression of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression," Anli Wang, of the Zhejiang Key Laboratory for Agro-Food Processing in the Zhejiang University College of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science in China, and colleagues wrote. "Unfortunately, the relationship between fried food consumption and anxiety and depression symptoms and underlying mechanisms have been unclear prior to the current study."

Wang and colleagues evaluated U.K. Biobank data from 140,728 participants who had information available on their diet, anxiety and depression states and other mental health conditions.

Over an average of 11.3 years of follow-up, 8,294 participants had anxiety and 12,735 had depression. Participants who ate more than one serving of fried food per day were more likely to be men, younger and smoke, as well as have a higher BMI, lower household income, lower educational attainment, lower vitamin supplement use and higher energy intake compared with people who did not consume fried foods.

In multivariable analyses, fried food consumption increased the risk for anxiety by 12% (HR = 1.12; 95% CI, 1.06-1.18) and the risk for depression by 7% (HR = 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.12). Specifically, fried white meat and fried potato were associated with a 4% greater risk for anxiety (P = .003 and P = .006 for trend, respectively). Fried potato consumption increased the risk for depression by 2% (P = .031 for trend), but the association between fried white meat and depression was not significant in multivariable analyses.

Subgroup analyses revealed that male and younger consumers had a stronger association between fried foods and depression and anxiety symptoms.

Researchers also exposed a zebrafish model to acrylamide, a dangerous fried food contaminant, to further evaluate the associations with depression and anxiety. They found that long-term exposure to acrylamide elicited anxiety and depression behaviors.

Moving forward, Wang and colleagues said longitudinal studies with longer follow-up in more ethnically and age-diverse populations is needed.

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