Why Is Junk Food Becoming the Major Reason for Mental Health Disorders?
Nutritionists warn that consuming junk food increases the risk of mental disorders. Foods and drinks that provide high energy and low nutrition can be termed junk foods. Some examples include chocolates, carbonated drinks, energy bars, packet chips, pre-processed spreads, etc. With the prevailing global pandemic and changing lifestyle of children and adolescents today, it's difficult to keep track of one's diet and food habits. People either are too involved in the diet culture for the sake of promoting it on their social media or be ignorant about it by following mindless routines. They also order most of their food from outside owing to their busy careers and schedules. All these have led to an increase in the incidence of mental disorders. It is also depended upon BMI, socioeconomic status, family history of physical and mental disorders, and the time the children and adolescents spend on screen.
Some of the mental health problems due to eating junk food include a hormonal imbalance in children between 10 and 15 years of age. There is also an association between consuming unhealthy foods and aggressive behavior. They show irregular weight gain due to the addition of junk food in their everyday meals. They either order their food online or consume processed food ranging up to 80% of their total meals being junk and unhealthy. The food they order consists of sweetened drinks, ready-mixes, takeaway foods, confectionaries, and processed meat, which lead to physical disorders such as indigestion, stomach ache, stomach infections and ulcers, gastritis, and other gastrointestinal problems. A nutritionist also added that the habit of consuming unhealthy food started with food delivery apps delivering the food quickly and whenever they want, and they also end up eating more than they usually eat for the sake of finishing the entire portion delivered to them. This reduces the portion of healthy foods such as green vegetables and their meals lack the essential nutrients derived from them.
For the central nervous system and brain to effectively perform their functions, our meals should comprise folic acid, vitamins, especially B12 and poly saturated fatty acids. The junk food the teenagers love and prefer usually consists of non-nutritional ingredients in excess amounts such as sweetening agents, and high amounts of salt and fat content, eventually leading to poor mental health. Instead of feeling energetic, people start to feel lazy and become lethargic, the ability to solve problems deteriorates, and they experience constant mood swings. They also have the risk of developing depression. The imbalance in nutrients also affects the mood by affecting the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This is because, in a healthy home-cooked meal, there would be plenty of micronutrients essential to keep our health in check, which is lacking in junk and pre-processed food. Other lifestyle factors such as malnutrition, low birth weight, socioeconomic status, active and passive smoking, exposure to toxic substances and pollutants, etc can also add to the physical and psychological distress caused by poor eating habits. Poor eating habits lead to eating disorders and child obesity is a serious outcome of the same. Apart from the aforementioned problems, there is the in evident problem of cardiovascular risks owing to the fat and cholesterol in junk food.
A psychiatrist working in the field explains the behaviour as similar to addiction where the teenagers getting used to the taste of the junk food, and the joy, and euphoria it brings, are drawn to have them again and again though they become overwhelmed with the options available. This causes psychiatric problems such as excessive worrying, anxiety, depression, sleeping and appetite changes, aggression, attention and concentration problems, and associated feelings of guilt and worthlessness.