A Chinese study is believed to have found links between fried food and mental illness. The culprit is believed to be acrylamide, which is formed when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures and is considered to be carcinogenic.
Previous studies have shown that more westernized diets can be linked to anxiety and depression. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Zhejiang University in China looked at patient data from 140,728 people to investigate possible links between high consumption of fried food and mental illness. They chose to look at fried food because it is often part of Western food consumption.
The researchers found that those who reported eating larger amounts of fried food were more likely to be diagnosed with symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Those who regularly ate fried food, especially in potato form such as French fries, were 12% more likely to have anxiety and 7% more likely to have depression. There was a greater risk in men and also in younger consumers. However, the researchers could not rule out the possibility that more fried food was consumed because of mental health problems.
However, when they looked more closely at what in the food could be the root cause, they chose to examine the chemical compound acrylamide. Acrylamide can be formed, for example, when carbohydrate-rich foods are heated above 100 degrees.
They tested the effect of acrylamide on zebrafish when they were exposed and found that their behavior changed. They became less likely to explore new areas and their social skills decreased, which are signs of fish behaviors thought to be similar to human anxiety and depression.
However, the researchers say more studies are needed to establish that deep-fried food definitely leads to increased mental health problems.