Why Junk Food Could Be Bad For Your Mind, Too

When it comes to the consequences of an unhealthy diet, people tend to logically think of health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Aside from the physical impacts of poor dietary decisions, all that junk food might be bad for your mind too.

Food for Thought

A 2019 study of California adults concluded that mental health woes were more likely to affect those who frequently ate nutritionally dubious foods. Published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, this study based its conclusions on data collected by the multi-year California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Thanks to this source, the study authors had access to roughly 240,000 telephone survey responses conducted between the years 2005 and 2015.

The information documented by the CHIS surveys not only included the respondents’ health statuses and dietary habits, but also their socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. Upon reviewing the CHIS data set, the authors concluded that mental illness was quite widespread in the state of California, affecting almost 17 percent of adults in the state. This figure was further divided into those with moderate psychological stress (13.2 percent) and those with severe psychological stress levels (3.7 percent).

Cause and Effect?

When peering further into this data, a clear pattern emerged; those with nutritionally-deficient diets were at greater risk of experiencing problems with mental health. Even when factors such as gender, education, age, marital status and income were taken into account, this pattern remained solidly intact.

The study’s lead author, Jim E. Banta, noted that his team’s work echoed the findings of previous studies on this subject. “This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavioral medicine,” stated Banta, an associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.”

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