Drop the Nuggets: Could Fried Food Be Making You Sad and Anxious?
Photo by Tareq Ismail / Unsplash

Drop the Nuggets: Could Fried Food Be Making You Sad and Anxious?

A new study suggests fried food may be bad for your mental state—but it's not conclusive

Are French fries, tempura, and KFC making people depressed?

A new study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the U.S.) suggests there may be a correlation between consuming fried food and the risk of anxiety and depression.

The study measured food consumption and anxiety and depression in 140,728 people over a period of more than 11 years. It concluded that about 12 percent of people who were consuming fried foods regularly had an uptick in anxiety risk and 7 percent saw increased levels of depression. Oddly, French fries seemed to up these 2 percent higher than, say, fried chicken.

This might be alarming if you're reading this from a drive-thru lane right now, but there are few reasons to take the study with a grain of salt (although salt is a whole other problem). For one thing, the study was meant to study Western eating habits (i.e., us Americans), but was funded in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the China National Program for Support of Top-notch Young Professionals. (Although the study has origins in China, it was edited by experts at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.) The study used zebrafish as well as human subjects to study the effects.

The study says the long-term effects are still unclear based on this research, and a few experts poked some holes in the methodology, with one suggesting that the way the study was done doesn't take into account other lifestyle factors or reverse causality to explain the correlation.

Duane Mellor, a dietician at Aston Medical School at Aston University, said, “Overall this study does not change the evidence that a healthy diet which is based on plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, pulses and moderate amounts of other foods is associated with better mental and physical health, and caution should be used when using animal models, which only show ‘anxiety-like’ symptoms and especially when using a compound to induce these which is not unique to fried food."

So for now, don't assume that fried = sad. But it's still probably a good idea to take it easy on those waffle friends and eat more vegetables.

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