Depression's New Culprit? Um, Put Down The Pasta

by Krystin Arneson

Whether it's a truffle-oiled, angel-haired affair or the drunkenly made, buttery kind, pasta is probably one of the most delicious things on the planet. But new science news is a wet noodle for pasta lovers: Published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, a recent study links pasta and depression. And not just in a "Oops-I-cooked-too-much-and-ate-it-all-why-don't-my-jeans-fit" way, but actual depression.

It wasn't like this was a small study, either: Researchers spent more than a decade tracking the diet and health of women who, at the time of the study, were all depression-free. At the end of the study, women who ate refined grains were more likely — by a whopping 29 to 41 percent — to experience depression.

Oh, and it gets worse! Women who also consumed fatty red meat (like the ill-chosen hamburger that goes in pasta sauce) and soft drinks (like the Diet Coke you have with your Italian carbfest to make you feel a little bit better) were also linked to the same elevated instances of depression. Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland then replicated the study with men, and the results were the same.

Guess that rules out the garlic bread, huh?

Additionally, these three pariah food groups — which we all knew were bad for us, but this is just twisting the knife, really —were linked to higher rates of inflammation — a condition linked to cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. The study does give credibility to the notion that nutritionists have long known to be true: A healthy diet is a healthy mind. Participants who ate lots of vegetables, fruits (especially berries), whole grains, fish, poultry and low-fat cheese were the least likely to be diagnosed with depression.

"The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention," says University of Eastern Finland researcher Anu Ruusunen.

On the bright side, there are lots of perfectly nice foods out there that don't make you gloomy/inflamed — and even reduce the symptoms of both: Leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and carrots are all quite good for you, as is olive oil, coffee (!) and wine (!!). So if we're not meant to have some weekend comfort-penne, at least we can still have the pinot noir that would have gone with it.