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Are you depressed about your diet or because of it?

Published February 15. 2019 10:18PM

If you consider yourself an average American adult or know a few and like them, you might find the following fact as distressing as I do: To be average is to be overweight.

But then again, you might not be bothered by this actuality at all. After all, it’s been that way for so long that for many it’s the accepted norm.

So let me provide a few more stats from the Centers of Disease Prevention and Control to make you feel somewhat distressed — or maybe even downright depressed — about this matter of fatness.

In the time since JFK was assassinated, the average American male has gained 32 pounds, yet has only grown 1 inch taller; the average American female has added almost 31 pounds, yet has only grown about a half inch.

This added weight comes not from some weightlifting craze that has swept the country and bulged muscles, but rather from some seriously bad eating that has bulged bellies.

Male waistlines now average — repeat, average — 40 inches; female waistlines average 39.

Just how big of a bulge is that? The average American adult midsection is now twice the diameter of a standard 55-gallon drum.

Depressed yet?

If so and you are also one of those average Americans with a waistline so wide you hardly move your hips to spin a Hula Hoop, the reason for your depression may not be because of what you just read. More likely, it’s a creation of years of the aforementioned awful eating that has led to the average American male now weighing just south of 200 pounds and the average female a bit north of 170.

There are a number of studies that have linked the sort of poor diet that packs on unwanted pounds to not just making you feel a bit blue, but to creating a legitimate, need-to-see-a-psychiatrist-type of depression.

A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2105, for instance, determined that increased body weight and high blood sugar as a result of consuming a high-fat diet caused anxiety, depressive symptoms, and measurable changes in the brains of mice. Equally alarming, the bad diet negated the effect of the standard antidepressants doctors prescribe to people to alleviate depressive symptoms.

Taking the mice off the high-fat diet not only lessened their anxious symptoms significantly, but it also reversed the metabolic changes the diet created that are known to be the precursors to type 2 diabetes.

More recently, a study performed at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia and published in 2017 by BMC Medicine took a different approach by working with humans instead of lab mice. The subjects already suffered from depression, so the researchers tried to remedy that by having some join a social support group.

Others joined a dietary support group.

After three months, 8 percent of the subjects in the social support group achieved remission. The remission rate in the dietary support group, however, was more than four times that: 33 percent.

Professor Felice Jacka, spokesperson for the study and director of Deakin’s Food and Mood Centre attributed the rate of remission of the depression in either group not to an increase in physical activity or a reduction in body weight, but “to the extent of [the] dietary change.”

Jacka’s claim makes sense because prior studies using dietary support groups have also created weight loss — along with concurrent reductions in the incidence of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But in this new study, the researchers were able to confirm that all these reductions were created to some degree not only by the physical loss of weight but also by the “mental loss” of those feelings of depression resulting from the unwanted weight.

But you don’t need to join a dietary support group to lessen any feelings of depression: eating better than you already do achieves the same, and average Americans can do that by following the tenets of the Mediterranean diet.

Through a review of 41 studies, research done primarily at the University College London in the United Kingdom and published last year in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers found that eating a plant-rich diet similar to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 33 percent reduced risk of depression when compared to diets essentially opposite to the Mediterranean diet.

When the researchers took a different approach, they were able to ascertain that eating “a pro-inflammatory diet” — the essential opposite to the Mediterranean and one consisting of significant amounts of processed foods loaded with saturated fat and processed sugar — was linked to a higher risk of depression. This accrued data came from studies that used more than 30,000 adults living in five affluent countries: Australia, France, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

So for a surefire way to feel better about yourself, find a surefire way to better fuel yourself. The two go hand in hand.

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