The Fast Food Fast Track to Depression

Course excerpt from Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts

Fast Food Fast Track to DepressionYou already know it’s not good for you, but scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, wanted to find out just how bad for your mental health fast food really is. Analyzing data from 8,964 participants – that had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants – of the SUN Project, researchers assessed people for an average of six months.

What were the results? Consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, were found to be 51% more likely to develop depression. Even more compelling was that the link between fast food and depression appears to be dose responsive – that is the more you eat, the greater your risk (Sanchez-Villegas et al., 2015).

And this was actually a duplicate study. The SUN project had already uncovered a link between fast food and depression in its 2011 study. There, fast food consumers were found to be 42 percent more likely to develop depression than those who consumed no fast food (Sanchez-Villegas et al., 2011).

If you are thinking that just a little won’t hurt you, you’d be wrong. According to one of the university researchers who participated in the study, “Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression.” What’s the takeaway? That happy meal might not only be promising more than it can deliver; it might actually be making us feel worse.

We know that eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, and eating less fast food improves mood and lowers levels of depression. Yet the question still remains: How much does caloric intake affect how we feel?

Nutrition and Mental HealthNutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible.

So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).