Dieting Can Lead to Depression

As the New Year begins, many people will be including dieting in their New Year’s Resolutions. Researchers caution individuals to take care in how they try to cut calories and gain a body image which satisfies them. Recent research reveals that cutting certain nutrition from the body could result in or worsen depressive symptoms. Dieting may make a skinnier body, but could negatively affect the mind.

Suffering From Food Withdrawal

Multiple factors can influence symptoms linked to depression. In a study by the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine, researchers found that nutritional deficiencies and sudden nutritional changes in the body are linked to symptoms of depression. The research group’s findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity. In a study with mice, researchers observed that the food the animals were eating actually changed the chemistry in their brains. One group of mice ate sugary and fatty foods, while another group ate healthy food. When the fatty and sugary foods were taken away from the mice they suffered withdrawal symptoms linked to depression. Mice who ate high-fat unhealthy diets also had higher anxiety levels than the mice who ate healthy foods. Researchers asserted that the depressive symptoms occurred before the mice were obese. A 2004 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry also found evidence that the eating habits and nutrition of people are linked to depression.

Chemical Changes in the Brain

When people have been consuming large amounts of fatty or sugary foods over a long time period and then immediately withdrawal all of those items from their diet, they may experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by someone who is withdrawing from drug abuse. Such a rapid change of diet may actually cause the individual to resume eating the unhealthy foods even more as they seek the pleasurable feeling it brings. Researchers noticed changes in the chemical dopamine in the brains of the mice. They noticed that the chemical, which produces good feelings in the body, was highly activated by the higher fat diets. When the fatty sugary foods were removed, the good feelings subsided. Changing a person’s diet from one of high fats and excessive sugar to a healthier diet of nutritional vitamins and minerals is obviously encouraged; yet, individuals should take care during the process of reducing the bad with the good.

Balanced Nutrition and Depression

Other studies have shown that depression can be closely linked with nutrition. Depression can be affected by these nutritional deficiencies and habits:

  • Deficiencies of vitamin B-6, B-12, and D
  • Skipping meals (which causes an imbalance in blood sugar)
  • Overeating (which causes feelings of physical discomfort and emotional feelings of shame)
  • Eliminating carbohydrates (which reduces serotonin levels)
  • Consuming too much caffeine, sugar, or fatty foods at night before bed (which causes sleepiness and lowers moods)

Changing bad eating habits to good ones may be a gradual process. Gradually removing processed sugars and high-fat foods may help reduce some of the intense chemical changes in the brain that will be occurring as the body itself is changing. And with each step toward physical recovery, individuals and family and friends of the person should be aware of symptoms of depression.

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