Dietary fat is associated with physical health and is known to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, it can also effect mental health and increase the risk of depression, finds a study published in Translational Psychiatry.
“When compared with patients of normal body weight, overweight and obese patients showed a substantially slower response to antidepressant treatment, less improvement in neuroendocrinology and cognitive processing, and less antidepressant-induced weight gain,” the researchers stated.
As part of the study, a preliminary study was performed mouse models to which the scientists fed a high-fat diet, containing up to 60 per cent of both saturated and unsaturated fats. The human brain needs certain fatty acids for effective functioning and these fatty acids are absorbed from the food that we intake. However, accumulation of fatty acids in the brain can lead to health problems.
The researchers analysed that how fatty acids accumulated in the brains of the mice eating the high-fat diet affected the mental health. The study also looked into the changes in the behaviour in case of depression.
It was found that mice experienced an inflow of Palmitic acid to a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus. Palmitic acid is a common saturated fatty acid that is present in many different foods such as oils and meat. The increase in Palmitic acid in the brain indicates high chances of depression because of the release of dopamine, which is responsible for regulating the emotions.
“This is the first time anyone has observed the direct effects a high-fat diet can have on the signalling areas of the brain related to depression. The research may begin to explain how and why obesity is linked with depression, and how we can potentially better treat patients with these conditions,” says lead researcher professor Baillie.
The researchers say that fatty foods are often used to comfort ourselves, however, in the long term, this is likely to affect one’s mood in a negative way.
Research shows that obesity and depression have a bidirectional relationship. Being depressed makes an individual not indulge in physical activities and have dysfunctional eating patterns which can culminate into obesity in the long run when depression remains untreated. There is also ample research to show that obesity and depression do share same genetic variations. Either way, it’s ideal both of them are addressed so as to have a good physical and mental health,” says psychiatrist at SIMS hospital, Dr Vivian Kapil.