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Comfort food may spark a vicious cycle, study suggests

A case of the sads is often best addressed with a bowl of ice cream, a bag of Cheetos or whatever is the comfort food of your choice. Now, a new study shows that eating junk food is linked to depression. We spot a potential vicious cycle.

It seems the more trans fats you eat, the higher your risk of depression. Spanish researchers analyzed the diets, lifestyles and physical ills of 12,059 volunteers over six years -- before, during and after the study. At the start of the project, none of the volunteers suffered from depression, but at the end, 657 new cases had appeared. And of those new cases, the volunteers who ate more trans fats had a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression, when compared to the volunteers who didn't eat trans fats.

"I think (the) general population is informed regarding the association between diet and several physical diseases such as ... heart disease or obesity," says Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, lead author of the report and an associate professor of preventive medicine and public health at Spain's University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. "Nevertheless, there are not enough data regarding the hypothetical role of diet on mental disorders. In fact, only a few epidemiological studies have analyzed this possible association."

What was particularly interesting to Sanchez-Villegas and his team was that the diets of the volunteers actually included fairly low amounts of trans fats, which accounted for only 0.4 percent, on average, of the total energy energy consumed. "So, the repercussion of these results might be really important in other settings where trans fatty acids intake is by far higher (for example, it can be of up to 2.5 percent of total energy intake among the American population)," Sanchez-Villegas says.

But eating olive oil might actually lessen the risk of depression, another finding in the report shows. Consuming more than 20 grams of olive oil a day could reduce the risk of depression 20 to 30 percent, Sanchez-Villegas says.

Of course, the study addressed clinical depression, and not a case of "the blues." But when you're feeling down, do you ever let yourself indulge in your favorite snacks? What's your go-to comfort food?

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