From the Journals

Unhealthy eating habits might precede depressive symptoms


Unhealthy eating behaviors could be a risk factor for the development of depressive symptoms, new research suggests.

“This prospective study is the first to reveal the combined relationship between unhealthy eating and the incidence of depressive symptoms,” wrote Cong Huang, PhD, and his coauthors. “In contrast to previous studies, in which the focus of research has been on the impact of depressive symptoms on eating habits, we considered depressive symptoms to be a consequence of these unhealthy behaviors. Taken together, these findings reveal the possibility of a vicious cycle between unhealthy eating habits and mental health problems,” wrote Dr. Huang of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

Dr. Huang and coauthors recruited 376 Japanese adults aged 24-38 over a 2-year period. Three hundred of the participants were men, and none had depressive symptoms at baseline (J Epidemiol. 2017;27[1]:42-7).

The participants were asked to answer three questions aimed at assessing their eating habits. Eating behaviors that were deemed unhealthy included skipping breakfast at least three times per week, eating dinner within 2 hours of going to bed, and eating snacks after dinner more than three times per week. Meanwhile, the participants’ depressive symptoms were measured at baseline and follow-up using the Japanese version of the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale.

The investigators found that skipping breakfast appeared tied to a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms (P = .026). They also found a prospective relationship between eating snacks after dinner and depressive symptoms (relative risk, 1.77; 95% confidence interval, 1.00-3.14). Interestingly, the relationship between snacking after dinner and depressive symptoms “was limited to those who had [the] habit of having dinner shortly before bedtime (P for the interaction = .044),” they wrote.

In light of these findings, improving eating habits could have an impact on depressive disorders, Dr. Huang and coauthors said. Read the full study here.

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