Saturated fat, diet, and depression link: What you need to know

New research sheds light on why obesity and depression may be so commonly associated, and it involves an aspect of one's diet that many people are encouraged to keep in check: saturated fat. This dietary element is known to increase cholesterol levels and has been linked to a number of health issues by many studies, the most recent of which indicates that saturated fat may be a factor linking depression and obesity.

Saturated fat and health

Saturated fat primarily comes from animal products, such as meat and cheese, though it can also come from some plant-based products, including coconut oil. The American Heart Association recommends that only 5- to 6-percent of one's daily caloric intake come from saturated fat; excessive intake is typically associated with the development of heart disease (though controversy exists), but research has also found other potential negative health issues, including autoimmune problems.

The depression link?

Past research has identified an association between obesity and depression, an unfortunate reality that makes it more difficult for someone to overcome the issues. The reason for this link has remained elusive, but a new study out of the University of Glasgow implicates saturated fat as a possible factor.

According to the study, which involved mice, researchers found that saturated fat was able to enter the brain, where it accumulated and began to impact 'crucial brain signals' that have been linked with depression. This accumulation was noted in the hypothalamus region of the brains of mice fed diets containing up to 60-percent saturated and unsaturated fats.

What this means for you

Professor George Baillie, the study's lead author, explained the significance of this researching, saying:

We often use fatty food to comfort ourselves as it tastes really good, however in the long term, this is likely to affect one's mood in a negative way. Of course, if you are feeling low, then to make yourself feel better you might treat yourself to more fatty foods, which then would consolidate negative feelings.

We all know that a reduction in fatty food intake can lead to many health benefits, but our research suggests that it also promotes a happier disposition. Further to that, understanding the types of fats, such as palmitic acid, which are likely to enter the brain and affect key regions and signaling will give people more information about how their diet can potentially affect their mental health.