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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Fast Food, Health and Depression

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 14th 2012

Fast Food, Health and DepressionHow good are your eating habits? I have worked with many people for whom a meal is something they have on the way between one appointment and the next. Another variation on the theme is that, dinner is something that consists of hamburgers from McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and similar because there is no preparation and it's extremely fast. For people exhausted from a stressful day, it seems to be the perfect solution to the problem of what to do about food. That is why this type of food is referred to as "fast food."

The problem is that this type of food is extremely unhealthy. Repeatedly, studies show that a regular diet of this type of food causes obesity and the cardiovascular disease. In other words, this type of eating leads directly to over-weight, increased blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. If that is not bad enough, there is now evidence that fast foods are linked to depression. Why this connection exists is still unclear.

At the very same time, there is a direct connection between good health and the "Mediterranean diet." This diet is heavy in it's use of olive oil, whole green foods and low fat ingredients and fish. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids that lower cholesterol, and in B vitamins. In addition, the findings are that there is a lowered risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression.

All of this is encouraging news because it gives people a way to modify their life styles so that they feel they have some control over what happens to them. That control includes the ability to impact one's mental and emotional health and physical health.

It should go without saying that adding exercise and stress reducing techniques, such as meditation and yoga, further enhances the ability to control one's life.

Having said this, it's important to be realistic. Nutrition and exercise reduce the risk of physical and emotional problems but there is no guarantees that they will never happen. Life without stress, illness and depression cannot happen. That is just the point. Given the unpredictable nature of life, the least that can be done is to increase the odds that we can be well.

Are you a fast food eater?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Counter - Myrna C - May 15th 2012

I eat like a 5 year old. The words "risotto", "quiche", or any type of casserole are almost entirely out of my vocabulary.

Usually, eating habits have a positive correlation with socioeconomic level. I reside in one of the poorest cities in the nation; the illitericy ratio is 1:3, and the obesity rate is 60%, per recent statistics.

Ironically, if you find yourself in a homeless shelter, the nutritional options are nearly always healthy. Fruit and culinary/ nonprocessed meals are prepared daily.

I disagree that fast foods makes one depressed. In fact, I think that carbohydrate consumption raises serotonin levels, which is a "feel good" chemical. Out side of neurochemical ideation, I think that eating food that one enjoys lifts ones mood.

This, not to mention, is completely overlooking subliminal thought behind marketeering. The "golden arches" for example, are shaped like the mothers bosom; and hey, after all, isn't the happiest we could ever hope to be in life fullfilled by answering a deep-seated wish to return to the mother's womb?

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