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Junk food linked to severe psychological distress

February 27, 2019 2 min read

Junk food linked to severe psychological distress

We all know what it feels like after we eat junk food…to summarise, you feel like you are operating at 20% of your normal mental and physical capacity. Well, this sensation may be more serious than a food coma after a cheat meal.

The International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition publisheda study by Professor Jim E. Banta, PhD, MPH found adults who consumed regular junk food were more likely to have symptoms of moderate or severe psychological distress when compared to similar adults who consumed a healthier diet, regardless of characteristics such as gender, education, age, marital status and income.

Professor Banta stated that these findings are consistent with previous studies that have found a link between mental illness and unhealthy food choices. Interestingly they have found the foods that are linked to bipolar and to depression:


Bipolar: Sugar


Depression: Fried food, processed grains and sugar


“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health,” Banta said. Banta did state that this link cannot be confirmed as causal, as more research needs to be conducted, but he emphasised the importance that this finding and similar findings may have for behavioural medicine treatments.

Over 240,000 telephone surveys were conducted for this study by the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The study revealed that nearly 17% of California adults are likely to suffer from mental illness — 13.2% with moderate psychological distress and 3.7% with severe psychological distress. This is a huge number of people who are suffering every day from what may be easily treatable with some small diet changes.

So next time you reach for the soda or go through the drive-through after a long day, think about your brain and make a healthier choice.


Reference for ‘Junk food linked to severe psychological distress’:

  1. Jim E. Banta, Gina Segovia-Siapco, Christine Betty Crocker, Danielle Montoya, Noara Alhusseini. Mental health status and dietary intake among California adults: a population-based survey. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2019.1570085

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