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Why skipping this one meal could lead to depression

Why skipping this one meal could lead to depression

  • November 14, 2020
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We already know that there are links between what you eat and mental health (for example, avocados are good for anxiety and some research shows a vegan diet could help to relieve stress). Now, a new study has found that skipping or delaying meals, specifically breakfast, could put you more at risk of depression. It also found that when you eat can have an impact too.

Explaining why they conducted the research, which was published in the journal of Psychological Medicine, study author Johanna Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania, said: “Research has shown that a healthy diet is linked to a lower risk of depression. We were interested to know if when people ate during the day was linked to a higher or lower risk of having depression, too.”

In order to find that out, the team asked over 1,000 people (between the ages of 26 to 36) to record what times they had eaten at the previous day. Then, they asked the same participants to answer the same questions again five years later, when they were between 31 and 41 years old. The participants also completed an assessment of mood disorders, such as depression, dysthymia (a persistent, mild depression) and bipolar disorder, each time.

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The results found that those who skipped or ate a delayed breakfast were more prone to experiencing a mood disorder, compared to the participants who stuck to a more ‘traditional’ eating schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner, around the same specific times each day.

“Our study highlights that when you eat may be important for your health, not just what and how much you eat. We found that people who tended to skip or delay breakfast and consume a larger proportion of their daily food intake later in the day were more likely to have a mood disorder,” said Wilson, to PsyPost. “This may be due to hormonal and circadian effects of eating at a certain time, but it could also be due to whether someone is a morning or evening type person, known as chronotype.” Interesting stuff.

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While the study was conducted over a long period of time, it’s worth noting that a little over a thousand case studies isn’t a huge number in the grand scheme of things. Other factors also need taking into consideration too, such as depression often leaving people feeling unmotivated – which in turn could mean their ability to stick to a regular eating routine, or even prepare a meal in the first place, could be affected.

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Features Writer Jennifer Savin is Cosmopolitan UK’s features writer (for both print and digital), specialising in investigative reports, news, women’s issues and all things health.

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