Mental well-being decreases sharply with more frequent consumption of ultra-processed food (UPF), a report by a US-based non-profit, Sapiens Lab, published earlier this week suggests.
“Those who consume ultra-processed food several times a day are three times more likely to have serious mental health struggles compared to those who rarely or never do.”Report by Sapiens Lab
The Big Point: The study found that 53 percent of those who consume UPF multiple times a day were distressed and struggling with their mental health.
However, 18 percent of those who did not consume such foods at all reported distress.
It also found that 24 out of 47 elements used to assess mental health were rated badly – this included symptoms associated with depression such as dysregulated eating and disruptions in regulation of emotions and thoughts.
A greater number of young adults consumed UPF as opposed to those above the age of 65. But despite the greater number of young adults consuming such foods, the mental health impact of the food was the same across all age groups.
Why Does it Matter? A World Health Organization report from August 2023 showed that the sector contributing to the production of salty snacks, readymade and convenience food, beverages, chocolates, etc has grown 13.37 percent between 2011 and 2021.
Given the growth rate of the sector and the consumption of UPF, the study would be useful to assess the impact of processed food consumption in the country.
The Larger Context: Previously conducted studies on UPF have largely focused on its impact on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But this study recognises that mental health is not exempt from the effects of such foods.
The study is based on responses from approximately three lakh people, who self-reported their consumption of UPFs across 26 countries.