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Does dietary fat affect depression?

In a large 11-year study, cutting back on unhealthy fats -- like those in high-fat dairy -- and instead opting for healthier ones -- like the unsaturated fats found in nut butters, olive oil, and avocados -- reduced people's risk for clinical depression.

Feel-Bad Fats

The fat that most significantly bumped up depression risk? Trans fats (TFAs) -- ironically found in many of the comfort foods we eat to try to cheer ourselves up, like cookies, crackers, pastries, and frozen pizza. Folks who ate the most TFAs suffered an almost 50 percent jump in their risk for depression. And saturated fats, found in abundance in not only full-fat dairy but also red meats, didn't do people's risk for mood disorders any favors either.

Happy Fats

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) did the most to curb people's depression risk. Seems these fats somehow help quell inflammatory markers that would otherwise mess with the production of certain feel-happy neurotransmitters, including a special mood protector called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Besides protecting neurons from death, BDNF fosters the growth of synaptic connections between neurons and keeps those connections flexible and firing away in areas of the brain that modulate mood.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.