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Daily Dose: High Intake of Ultraprocessed Foods Raises Risk of Depression

Daily Dose: Distinct Patterns of BP in Early Gestation Predict Hypertensive Disorders / Image Credit: ©New Africa/AdobeStock
©New Africa/AdobeStock

Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.

On October 2, 2023, we reported on a study published in JAMA Network Open that examined the prospective association between ultraprocessed foods (UPFs) and its components with incident depression.

The study

Investigators conducted a prospective cohort study of 31 712 women (mean age, 52 years; 95.2% non-Hispanic White) aged 42 to 62 years who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II between 2003 and 2017 and free of depression of baseline. Every 4 years, the participants’ diet was evaluated using validated food frequency questionnaires.

Regarding depression, investigators used 2 definitions: “(1) a strict definition requiring self-reported clinician-diagnosed depression and regular antidepressant use and (2) a broad definition requiring clinical diagnosis and/or antidepressant use.”


Compared with those in the lowest quintile of UPF intake, participants in the highest quintile had an increased risk of depression—using both the strict definition and the broad definition.

When researchers examined the association of specific UPF components with risk of depression, they found that only artificial sweetened beverages and artificial sweeteners were associated with greater risk of depression.

Authors' comment

"These findings suggest that greater UPF intake, particularly artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened beverages, is associated with increased risk of depression. Although the mechanism associating UPF to depression is unknown, recent experimental data suggests that artificial sweeteners elicit purinergic transmission in the brain, which may be involved in the etiopathogenesis of depression."

Click here for more details.

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