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Adult Down Syndrome Center


Ultra-Processed Foods and Mental Health

September 8, 2022 07:00 AM
Ultra-processed foods and mental health

Studies have shown that mental illness is more common in people with Down syndrome compared to people without Down syndrome. In a study that reviewed data from more than 6,000 individuals with Down syndrome and 30,000 individuals without Down syndrome, the individuals with Down syndrome were more likely to experience several mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and disorders due to physiologic causes.

We regularly seek ways to reduce the risk or decrease the impact of mental illness in people with Down syndrome. People with and without Down syndrome can promote their mental health through a variety of ways, including:

  • Screening for, diagnosing, and treating physical health conditions that may impact mental health

  • Getting good sleep

  • Regularly exercising

  • Having positive social interactions

  • Eating a healthy diet

A ​recent study Link opens in new window (done in people without Down syndrome) demonstrated the impact of diet on mental health. The study found that people who ate more ultra-processed foods (such as sugary beverages and packaged snack food) were significantly more likely to report mild depression, more “mentally unhealthy days,” and more “anxious days.”

This study does not demonstrate cause and effect. In other words, the study does not show if eating more ultra-processed foods causes depression and anxiety or if people who are depressed and anxious tend to eat more ultra-processed foods. However, while we await more study, we encourage reducing ultra-processed foods to promote overall health as well as to possibly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Please see the sections from our Resource Library linked below for more information.

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