New research analyzing 26 studies conducted in Europe, involving 150,278 people, is further proof that there is definitely something to the notion of a connection between food and mood.
The new study was published in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and found that people who consumed the most fish had a 17 percent lower risk of depression than those who ate the least amount of fish. Researchers concede that other factors could also be at play. High fish consumption may be associated with a healthier overall diet and better nutritional status. This could also contribute to the lowered risk of depression.
Yet, as previous research has shown, omega-3 fatty acids in fish is believed to alter the structure of brain cell membranes. Other fatty acids in fish modify the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin — which are thought to be chemicals of the brain involved in depression. In turn, adding more fish to your diet is worth considering.
And, while we're at it, let's try to improve other facets of our diet. Another recently released, independent study of 15,000 Spanish university graduates conducted by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, found that following a diet rich in produce and low in processed meats appears to generate similar results of lowering the risk of depression.
The risk of depression for those in the study group who moderately followed a Mediterranean diet was about 25 to 30 percent lower than for those who did not. Even a moderate observance of these healthy dietary patterns showed positive results.
While researchers can't explain the precise link between these dietary patterns and the risk of depression, it seems clear that people who don't follow these healthy eating patterns may be at a higher risk of depression because they are nutrient deficient.
In other news, there are more than a few positive signs emerging that the American diet may be taking a turn for the better.
A 2015 study on the consumption of fruit and vegetables in the United States, commissioned by the Produce for Better Health Foundation, revealed that despite a general decline in the consumption of vegetables, fruit consumption among children and adults ages 18 to 44 is on the rise. The consumption of fruit for this group has significantly grown over the past five years.
Could it be that an apple a day, in this country, may be doing its part in keeping the doctor away? Apples account for nearly 19 percent of fruit intake among people ages 2 to 19 in the United States, according to a study published this week in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It appears that children of all ages are consuming more fruit "as is," as opposed to in juice form. Also driving this increase is increased consumption of berries, bananas and oranges.
This trend could facilitate an even greater shift away from juices that are loaded with added sugars and stripped of natural fiber. Fruit juice has also been shown to load on the calories while bypassing the cues that whole fruits give, telling us when we are full or satisfied. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, whole fruits account for 53 percent of fruit intake, while fruit juices currently account for 34 percent.
As mentioned previously in C Force, per capita soda sales are down 25 percent since 1998 with the majority of those sales going to bottled water. Orange juice, once the breakfast table staple, has seen its consumption drop 45 percent over the same period. People are realizing there are less sugar-laden ways to get your daily vitamin C. Dark, leafy greens like kale, a vegetable now soaring in popularity, are packed with it. So are bell peppers, strawberries and papaya.
According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation study, the total consumption of fruit and vegetables is expected to grow approximately 4 percent in the next five years. Fruit consumption, excluding juices, is expected to grow by 9 percent over the same period. The study sees this trend as having a positive generational effect for all consumers under the age of 40, a group that already is consuming more fruit and vegetables than their counterparts a decade ago.
Could we be on the cusp of a new reality of food consumption, that is not only shaping our eating habits for the better, but also sending the dominant food companies scrambling to catch up and to adjust their business model accordingly? Big food manufacturers are already reacting to these changes by simplifying their ingredients, launching new healthier lines of product and acquiring existing health-based brands. Yet, if we continue down this road towards greater consumption of natural products and ingredients, could it ultimately — as a Sunday New York Times opinion piece suggests — call into question the need for packaged products as a dominant source of food? At the very least, big food companies will have to do much more than they are currently if they are to compete — and that's a vision worth holding on to.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.