Study raises alarm for French fries lovers

Fried potatoes were found to increase the risk of depression over fried white meat, notes the study

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Fries are pictured at the Tram de Boitsfort stand in Brussels, Belgium. — Reuters/File
Fries are pictured at the "Tram de Boitsfort" stand in Brussels, Belgium. — Reuters/File

French fries may be tasty and the preferred food for most people but they should also know about a new study which has raised alarm for its lovers. 

A study has revealed that eating fried food frequently, especially fried potatoes can increase the risk of anxiety by up to 12% and 7% risk of depression, reported CNN.

Young consumers are more prone to such levels of risk.

Fried foods are linked to obesity, cholesterol and blood pressure. The findings "open an avenue in the significance of reducing fried food consumption for mental health" said the research paper published journal PNAS.

The nutrition experts, however, maintained that the early results do not identify whether consuming fried food items is the major factor causing mental health problems or whether those people already suffering from anxiety and depression started eating fried items.

The researchers analysed the data of 140,728 people over 11.3 years. Those who were diagnosed with the depression within first two years were excluded. The research identified that 8,284 people suffering from anxiety and 12,735 experiencing depression consumed fried food.

The study also said fried potatoes were found to have a 2% increase in the risk of depression over fried white meat.

It further revealed that the participants consuming more than one serving of fried food regularly were more likely to be younger men.

Dr David Katz, a lifestyle medicine specialist who was not involved in the study, said, "The human component of this study may indicate just what it purports: that higher intake of fried food increases the risk of anxiety/depression."

Katz, founder of the nonprofit True Health Initiative, a global coalition of experts dedicated to evidence-based lifestyle medicine also noted: "However, the causal pathway could just as readily go the other way: people with anxiety/depression turn to 'comfort food' with increasing frequency for some semblance of relief."

He also highlighted that those with underlying symptoms of anxiety and depression could turn to comfort foods as a way of self-medicating.

A prior study cited in this also stated that poor nutrition can lower one's mood and progress a mental health condition.

Walter C. Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: "The health effects of fried food will depend greatly on what food is fried and what type of fat is used for frying."

He noted: "Potatoes are a concern for possible effects of mood because they can cause large surges in blood sugar and then hormonal responses to these surges. However, these surges are partly blunted by fat, which would be provided by the fat from frying."

Willett also noted that acrylamide isn't only produced by frying but is present in coffee, because of the roasting of the beans, and in toast, because "heating carbohydrates together with protein can do this."

Increasing anxiety and depression

An author of this study Yu Zhang told CNN that "there is no need to panic about the adverse effects of fried food". But emphasised that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing consumption of fried foods may be helpful for mental health in addition to overall health.

The recent global surge in anxiety and depression cases was also indicated in the study by citing data from 2020 27.6% and 25.6%, respectively.

The paper also noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) also estimated more than 5% of adults suffer from depression.

"If a take-away is needed it is simply that overall diet quality, and the selection of wholesome foods, matters profoundly to every aspect of health — mental and physical alike," Katz said.