Study Links Diet to Depression, Disease and Aging – All That?

Last year, Psychosomatic Medicine published a study linking high intake of Omega 6 fatty acids to an array of health problems. According to the study, diets that are high in Omega 6 fats produce proinflammatory cytokines - substances that affect immunity and attack cells, wreaking overall havoc with our health, and even affecting mental balance. Sadly, some of the most commonly consumed foods that promote this sort of inflammation may be in your cupboard - they are common and constitute a major portion of the average American diet.

The authors explain: “prior studies have shown that both depression and stress can enhance the production of proinflammatory cytokines. These cytokines — including interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) — influence the onset and course of many conditions associated with aging, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis.” Not a pretty picture is it, when you consider how many of us consume corn oil, baked goods, and cereals (are you checking your cupboard?). All of these have definite health benefits, but as with all things, moderation is wise. You have to incorporate Omega 3 fats into your diet in order to maintain a healthy balance.

This particular study revealed a strong link between depression and elevated cytokine levels. According to lead author Lead author Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, from Ohio State University in Columbus, "The major finding here is that yes, [diet] matters, and it probably matters more in people who have high levels of depressive symptoms." She added that this study provides evidence that diet seems to be very important in the way that people respond to depression and stress, and that "diet is not just a sideline player."

Long before the advent of margarine, refined vegetable oil, and processed foods, we fished, farmed, hunted and ate what was gathered. Fresh meat came from the local butcher. The incidence of obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer and heart disease was lower. Advances in science have allowed us to live longer, but we are facing unnecessary health problems because of poor dietary offerings.

Pressure from health groups are underway to encourage food manufacturers to stop producing unhealthy foods, and I am noticing better choices in the supermarket. For now, the only way around that is to spend more time in the kitchen, and buy fresh, locally grown food. You don’t need to spend a fortune on prepackaged, natural foods, you just need to buy smart and back off a bit on spending. Try eating more simply. Try dark chocolate as opposed to baked goods – it’s a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Eat raisins – I guarantee they’re a great sweet tooth substitute. Whole foods are much healthier than processed foods.

Prepare your meals fresh. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them. Avoid fast food lunches by taking fresh fruit, nuts and other healthy snacks to work. You’ll be less likely to have cravings if you eat small, frequent meals. Incorporate foods with Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet to provide balance. Pick fresh berries and fruit whenever possible and visit your local fruit stand. Plant oils, nuts and fish are primary sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.

You can do this – we all can. It’s a small process with HUGE rewards.