High-fat diet related brain changes may cause anxiety, depression

High-fat diet related brain changes may cause anxiety, depressionA high-fat diet has been shown to create brain changes that can contribute to anxiety and depression. The latest findings, which were conducted on mice, revealed that an increase in body weight and high blood sugar as a result of a high-fat diet are linked with anxiety and depression.

Senior author, Dr. Bruno Guiard, said, “When treating depression, in general there is no predictor of treatment resistance. So if we consider metabolic disorders as a putative treatment resistance predictor, this should encourage psychiatrists to put in place a personalized treatment with antidepressant drugs that do not further destabilize metabolism.”


When the mice were taken off the high-fat diets the metabolic impairments were completely reversed and their anxiety symptoms lessened. Dr. Guiard added, “This finding reinforcing the idea that the normalization of metabolic parameters may give a better chance of achieving remission, particularly in depressed patients with type 2 diabetes.”

The findings were published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

High-fat diet and depression

High-fat diet and depressionThere have been numerous studies linking high-fat diets to worsened mental health. In an alternative study, also conducted on mice, researchers from Louisiana State University implanted mice who were fed a normal diet with bacteria from mice who only consumed fat. Cognition and behavior were then recorded over a period of time against a control group of mice.

The mice that received the bacteria from the high-fat mice expressed more repetitive behaviors, anxiety and memory impairment. These mice also had increased inflammation and permeability in their intestines.

John Krystal, M.D., editor of Biological Psychiatry, said, “This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracts.”

The findings also suggest that behavioral changes can occur even when the animal is not obese. Unfortunately, how the high-fat diet causes behavioral changes is still largely unknown.

There have been numerous previous research studies linking a connection between gut bacteria and psychological conditions. This latest research further supports what has previously been said.

Both obesity and depression were thought to be caused by genetics, and it’s more common that a depressed individual will consume high-fat foods to feel better. On the other hand, stigma attached to an obese person eating high-fat foods is linked with depression.

The Obesity Action Coalition reported, “One recent study found that overall, obese individuals have a 20 percent elevated risk of depression, and specifically for Caucasian college-educated people with obesity, the depression risk rises to as high as 44 percent.”

These new findings may further tighten the link between obesity and depression.

Fat recommendations: How much fat is good for you?

Fat recommendations: How much fat is good for you?More and more we see labels that read “fat-free,” but we need fat to function and it has to be the good fat. Harmful fats include saturated fat and trans fat – both are found in fast food, processed food and are commonly linked with poor health outcomes. On the other hand, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega fatty acids are healthy fats our body needs for overall good health. But it is still possible to have too much of a good thing, which is why it’s important to know exactly how much fat we need.

How much fat you need is dependent on many factors, including age, weight, gender and activity level. The USDA recommends that fat intake should be 20 to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. Saturated fats should be limited below 10 percent (200 calories based on a 2000 caloric intake) and trans fat should be below one percent (two grams based on a 2000 caloric intake).  Keep in mind this fat should come from red meat and not from processed foods.

If you’re unsure how much fat you should be consuming, or want to know what exactly 20 to 30 percent is, speak with your doctor; they can recommend your personalized fat intake based on your needs and health conditions.

How to lower bad fats in your diet

As mentioned, saturated and trans fats are the types of fat known to boost bad cholesterol and contribute to cardiovascular problems. For this reason, it’s important that you minimize or eliminate them from your diet.

The good news is that the FDA has put a ban on trans fat, so in the coming years you won’t have to worry about their presence in foods. However, trans fat are found naturally in products like red meat, so minimizing your intake is a good idea.

Other ways to eliminate trans fat include ceasing consumption of foods like baked goods, fried foods, snack foods, solid fats such as margarine, and pre-mixed products such as cake mix.

Tips to reduce your saturated fat intake include:

  • Consume less red meat.
  • Stick with white meat.
  • Bake, broil or grill instead of frying.
  • Remove skin from chicken whenever possible.
  • Avoided breaded meats or fried vegetables.
  • Choose low-fat milk and low-fat cheeses.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils, specifically olive oil.
  • Avoid creams and cheese sauces or have them served on the side.

Not only do bad fats contribute to obesity, but they can affect your heart and even your mental health as well. If you want to maintain optimum overall health, you can! Your first move is to reduce your intake of harmful fats and stick to the good ones instead.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.