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Your meals may affect your mental state

Published April 28. 2012 09:02AM

Time tosses aside the trivial. That's why you should pay particular attention to sayings that take on a life of their own, especially ones that outlive three different speakers in three different countries and pertain to your health.

"You are what you eat" is one such statement. First expressed by the French food critic Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826, the sentiment was then written in a philosophical essay by the German philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach 37 years later.

About 60 years after that, Dr. Victor Lindlahr, an American health food proponent and radio show talk host, used the saying so often and so successfully that he wrote a book by the same name in 1942.

Today, we understand that the food you eat has a direct bearing on your physical health and also your state of mind, a knowledge acquired not only through personal experience but also scientific study after scientific study.

Most know from experience, for example, that hunger can make you or your loved ones irritable, even aggressive. What science has recently offered, however, is that some ways to sate that hunger just might do the same.

A study of 945 men and women conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and published online at PLoS ONE shows that the consumption of trans fat, the hydrogenated, manmade fat often used in packaged foods to extend shelf life, does more than adversely affect your health by increasing the aging process, creating inflammation, increasing insulin resistance, and reducing metabolic function. It messes with your mood.

Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor in the UC San Diego Department of Medicine, said this about the findings in an article published online at Medical News Today: "We found that greater trans fatty acids were significantly associated with greater aggression, and were more consistently predictive of aggression and irritability, across the measures tested, than the other known aggression predictors that were assessed." Golomb also believes that if further study continues to link the consumption of trans fat to aggressive behavior, institutions like schools and prisons will need to exclude trans fat in the foods they serve.

To do otherwise is the culinary equivalent to giving potential pyromaniacs a can of gas and a book of matches. Furthermore, foods with trans fat would need to be regulated in such places since its consumption could harm others besides the consumer.

A prior study, done by Spanish researchers, also found that trans fat affects your mental state. In fact, eating it can make you something just as bad as overly aggressive.

Clinically depressed.

The study of more than 12,000 men and women used a 136-item food-frequency questionnaire to determine just how much trans fat the subjects were ingesting. Even though Spaniards eat relatively little trans fat on the whole, those recording the highest amounts were 42 percent more likely to have developed depression during the course of the six-year study.

Considering that the typical American ingests six times the amount of trans fat as the typical Spaniard, is it really any surprise that depression in American children has recently increased by 23 percent and that nearly 10 percent of adults suffer from a depressive disorder in any given year? But what's even more frightening about these statistics is that 60 percent of those who commit suicide are at the time suffering from some sort of depressive disorder like depression.

But other recent research indicates that "You are what you eat" pertains as much to the body as the brain. One study showed that drinking a single 12-ounce soda a day increases your chance of heart disease by 20 percent.

Research published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal, used data gathered from 42,883 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to reach that conclusion. Men who limited themselves to two 12-ounce sodas a week showed no increased risk, nor did men who consumed artificially sweetened sodas.

A second study linked red meat consumption with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and dying.

Data gathered on over 120,000 American adults over a 28-year period led Harvard School of Public Health researchers to write in the Archives of Internal Medicine that "a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significant elevated risk of total [cardiovascular disease] and cancer mortality, and this association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat, with a relatively greater risk for processed meats."

The increased risk from eating one serving of processed meat every day was found to be 20 percent.

Because of these recent studies, it's easy to forget that the saying "You are what you eat" has a converse, but it does. And it too has been proven in scientific study after scientific study, but there's a better way for you to learn of the positives.

Personal experience.

Start eating better and you'll be energized in the same way a car runs better on a higher quality fuel. Keep eating well and your energy will increase again in a couple of weeks.

That's because healthy food is not as calorie dense, so just about anyone who starts eating better loses weight as a result.

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