A study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham has found a link between fast food and adolescent depression.
Our bodies are complex systems, especially in adolescence. There's lots of chemical changes going on in a growing body, and we are learning more and more about how diet affects people's mood, energy levels, and general health.
Scientists out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham tested the urine of middle school students and found a very high amount of sodium and low potassium. High sodium usually equals processed foods like fast food and instant meals, where as low potassium typically means that the person isn't getting enough vegetables and fresh food in their diet.
The students were checked on a year and a half later and, after accounting for variables such as blood pressure, weight, age and sex, they found that students with these high sodium levels were more likely to show signs of depression.
"The study findings make sense, as potassium-rich foods are healthy foods," said dietitian Lisa Drayer, a CNN health and nutrition contributor. "So, if adolescents include more potassium-rich foods in their diet, they will likely have more energy and feel better overall -- which can lead to a better sense of well-being and improved mental health."
There are a lot of factors that have been linked to the whopping 52 percent jump in adolescent depression rates between 2005 and 2017. Social media, lack of sleep, the general chaos of the modern world, or the very real fear of climate change have all been connected to this alarming rise in depression and suicidal ideation.
Diet has long been suspected of having a major impact on mental health. A worldwide analysis of diet and depression studies have found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet -- fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and little red meat or processed foods -- had lower rates of depression.
The sample size of this initial study is low. The group they studied had only 84 middle school girls and boys, 95% African-American from low-income homes. In addition, the study didn't show a cause and effect relationship between high sodium and depression but rather an association. Further studies are being undertaken. In the meantime, we should consider what foods we put in our kid's bodies.
And we should also probably stop destroying the Earth so they're less freaked out.