When one thinks of comfort food, pasta or its many derivatives often comes to find. But a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health debunks the idea that pasta can make you feel better. In fact, it finds the exact opposite. Published in the journal "Brain, Behavior, and Immunity," the new study has some groundbreaking findings that suggest that certain foods can play a role in making you clinically depressed.
When headline grabbing studies like these are released, many point out sample size and study length as a loophole for how valid the findings are. But the researchers in the pasta and depression study spent 12 years tracking over 43,000 women and their diets. Not a single subject had depression at the beginning of the study, but by the end, the picture was much different. The findings were clear cut: Women who ate fatty red meat, consumed refined grains (translation: pasta, white bread, chips and crackers) and drank soda were 29 to 41 percent more likely to be diagnosed for or treated for depression than their counterparts. Additionally, the women who consumed the foods mentioned also had higher biomarkers for inflammation.
This study builds on findings reported earlier this year from scientists at the University of Eastern Finland, which suggest that a healthy diet reduces the risk of severe depression. "The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention," said Anu Ruusunen, MSc, to Science Daily, adding that foods that are associated with lower risk of depression include: vegetables, fruits, berries, whole-grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheese. Science Daily reported that a "high consumption of sausages, processed meats, sugar-containing desserts and snacks, sugary drinks, manufactured foods, French rolls and baked or processed potatoes was associated with an increased prevalence of elevated depressive symptoms."
This isn't the first time refined grains has come under heat, as a 2010 study found that those who ate few refined grains had lower body fat. The researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University found that refined grain intake plays a role in how much fat tissue an individual has; specifically, visceral adipose tissue, which is responsible for triggering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. "VAT volume was approximately 10 percent lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day," says first author Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA, to Science Daily.