Can a junk food diet increase your risk of depression?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Depression and diet may be related. Several studies have found that people who ate a poor quality diet — one that was high in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products — were more likely to report symptoms of depression. The good news is that the people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish were less likely to report being depressed.

These results are in line with other research findings that healthy diets help protect against disease. For example, studies suggest that people who follow the Mediterranean diet — which emphasizes fruits, vegetables and fish, and limits meat and dairy products — have lower rates of depression and other diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and heart disease.

More research is needed on the connection between depression and diet. In the meantime, it would be wise to cut back on the less nutritious options and make healthier choices.

March 11, 2015