How the Standard American Diet is Making Us Depressed, Anxious, and Inflamed - Transcript

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Coming up on this episode of the Doctor's Farmacy, the highest junk food consumers had 62% higher odds for depression, 34% higher odds for stress, and 24% higher odds for anxiety, 17% higher odds for sleep dissatisfaction, and 17% lower odds for happiness. Now, that's a lot to swallow.
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The food we eat plays a pivotal role in our ability to regulate our mental and our emotional health. And many of us are aware that the sad diet, otherwise known as the standard American diet, is causing us to gain weight, to be obese, to be metabolically sick and to be chronically inflamed. But this inflammation is not just limited to our bodies. It has broad reaching effects on our brains and our mood, our cognitive function, pretty much everything we care about. In fact, it's kind of a good name to call it the SAD diet because it makes us sad. It's easy to overlook the connection between our diet and how we feel. But in a country where more than one in five adults are battling mental illness and suicide rates are increasing exponentially, especially in kids and drug ods are at an all time high, we need to stop and we need to ask ourselves why we're witnessing such unprecedented rates of mental illness.
Now, the answer lies not only in our modern day high pace stressful environment, but at the end of our forks. So today we're using functional medicine to help bridge the gap between our sad diet and our mental health crisis. And we're going to answer the question why? Why is our brain health so compromised? Why are we seeing such rates of mental illness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, violence, aggression, suicide rates, addiction? What can we do about it? Right? This is an important question. We're going to explore the science that shows that our diet drives neuroinflammation, that's inflammation of the brain, and it causes a functional disconnection between our frontal lobes and our amygdala. Now, the adult in the room is the frontal lobe, and it seems not to be in charge these days of our dinosaur reactive limbic brain, which has seemed to have taken over in our society.
We're going to connect the dots between what we eat and how we feel and explore the research that clearly shows how our toxic nutritionally depleted ultra process diet is a key driver of our mental health crisis, from depression to anxiety, a, d, D, even aggression, behavior problems and violence. The good news is that major academic centers now have departments of nutritional and metabolic psychiatry, and there's a way to eat and to supplement your way out of many mental health issues. So let's get into it. Why are we dealing with unprecedented rates of mental illness? Why is this happening? Well, what are the root causes? The root causes are driving inflammation in our bodies, which drives inflammation in our brains leading to something called neuroinflammation. This is a well-described phenomena that occurs in medicine that we now understand is linked to almost every known brain disease, from autism to Alzheimer's, from a DD to anxiety, from depression to PTSD, to bipolar disease, to schizophrenia, you name it.
If the brain's involved in some way in a disease, it's caused by inflammation. And the question is, what is driving the inflammation? Why are we so inflamed in the first place? And the answer is not to take Advil or a steroid or some immunosuppressant, but to find out and get rid of the root causes of inflammation. So what is driving this inflammation? Well, I think the most important and the most powerful driver of inflammation in our society is what I like to call the obesity epidemic. So what is diabesity? Well, it's that epidemic of a little bit of belly fat to a little more to pre-diabetes, to full-blown type two diabetes. And according to the NHANES data, which is our national database from the government research surveys that have been going on for decades that currently 93% of Americans are not metabolically healthy, meaning they have some degree of diabetes.
Now this drives inflammation. Now anybody who's got this belly fat, and we're going to talk about why is driving inflammation, even if you're not overweight, you can have it if you have visceral fat, fat around your organs. Now, many, many factors besides diet contribute to it, but the poor diet we have is the main driver. So what are the inflammatory foods? What are the foods we're eating that are putting our brains on fire? Well, it's ultra processed food, and now there's a classification system called the Nova Classification System that clearly maps out what is and what is an ultra processed food under rating scale from zero to four. So ultra processed food is the most pulverized, most dissected, split apart, processed, chemically, altered food-like substances that look like food but actually aren't that contain dozens of ingredients that are things you would not have in your kitchen counter or covered like butylated, hydroxy, toluene or maltodextrin or mono and triglycerides or a million other things that are in all sorts of food that we eat every day.
And it now comprises a huge part of our diet. We're talking about cookies, cakes, donuts, pretzels, chips, packaged snack foods, french fries, sandwich bread, buns, fast food, sugar sweetened beverages, sodas, blended coffees, teas, juices, candy, sugary condiments. I mean, it's pretty much everything we're eating. Now, there are a few other factors that we're just going to touch on briefly that do drive inflammation in the body and can drive neuroinflammation, not exercising. That's a big one, just being sedentary. Smoking, obviously that's bad for you. Alcohol. Alcohol is a big driver of inflammation and particularly brain issues and toxins. Environmental toxins play a big role. Petrochemical, toxins, plastic phthalates, all the forever chemicals that we're exposed to in our household. Cleaning products, skincare products and our food products and our packaging in pesticides, herbicides, I mean the list goes on. Heavy metals all also play a big role.
Any kind of stress, psychological emotional stress for sure drives inflammation. We know for example, from the ACE questionnaire, which is a adverse childhood event scoring questionnaire will link to it in the show notes that if you score high on this questionnaire, which identifies childhood stress like parents divorce to alcoholism in your family, violence, people being in prison, things like that, that is correlated with chronic disease, with obesity, with inflammation, autoimmune disease. So it's not just psychological, it translates into your biology. Another big factor for inflammation is a leaky gut. Now this is often caused by our poor diet. It's caused by food additives, it's caused by heavy metals, it's caused by environmental toxins. But when you have a leaky gut, the barrier breaks down between your gut and your bloodstream and food particles and toxic chemicals leak in and start to generate inflammation because they're foreign.
And that is a huge factor in many, many chronic diseases. And pretty much all the chronic diseases, not just the mental health disorders, whether it's diabetes or heart disease or Alzheimer's or even cancer, are all inflammatory diseases. And it's one of the main factors that's driving advanced accelerated aging. Now, the leading cause, however, and the thing we're going to talk about today, and the thing that we really can do something about is our diet. The leading cause of inflammation is our diet, and that is causing a metabolic health crisis. This metabolic health crisis is what's driving inflammation. When you have poor metabolic health, by definition, you're inflamed. Now, what is metabolic health? Well, metabolic health is how well our brains and our bodies produce and use energy. Now that seems a little abstract, but every one of the trillion cells in the body must convert fuel into energy using something called the mitochondria.
These are the little tiny organelles in your cells that take food and oxygen and turn it into energy that the body can use and essentially is the fuel that we call a TP. Now, when our cells can't do this effectively, it leads to symptoms ranging from brain fog to erectile dysfunction to infertility, fatigue, acne, chronic pain, low mood anxiety, and eventually full bone chronic disease. Essentially, you could think of this as diabetes of the brain when it happens. In fact, Alzheimer's is now called type three diabetes. So what is driving this metabolic health crisis? Well, like I said, it's our processed high sugar, high starch diet. And when we have swings in blood sugar, we have swings in insulin. Insulin causes fat deposition around the middle. Those fat cells are called adipocytes. They produce cytokines like you heard about in covid called adipose cytokines, which are essentially the inflammatory messengers that spew out from your belly fat and go across your whole body, including your brain, and create havoc and disease.
And what's driving this is our unprecedented intake of ultra processed food, refined flour and sugar, especially in the form of sugar sweetened beverages. Now, this leads to a lot of different dysfunctions in the body, including impaired insulin sensitivity, and we get insulin resistance, which means our bodies are resistant to the effects of insulin. And over time, that leads to all sorts of problems, right? That causes weight gain around the belly. It causes high blood pressure, it causes a loss of muscle and increase in body fat. It causes, we call atherogenic dyslipidemia, meaning the kind of cholesterol problem. It causes heart attacks with high triglycerides and low HDL, and it causes many other factors. Now, at a company I co-founded called Function Health, we do a full panel that assesses your metabolic health and your cardiovascular risk and your metabolic risk. And it's a very affordable test that allows you to get over 110 biomarkers that helps you map out what's going on.
And I encourage people to check this out because finding, and this is kind of frightening folks, but we're finding that 46% of the people we test and we've had over 3 million biomarkers on over 25,000 people, 46% have a high C-reactive protein. Now that's a cytokine marker of inflammation. 95% have small particles or abnormal lipid particles or too many particles. That means it sort of tracks actually 93% of Americans are metabolic and healthy. It's exactly what we're seeing. So even though they say one in two people have diabetes or prediabetes, it's probably a lot more than that when you broaden the definition to look at poor metabolic health as a general concept. Now, how many people have this? Well, we were just sort of talking about, but there's a landmark paper analyzing the data from the National Health and Nutrition examination survey called nhanes. This is a government database, and it looked at data from 1999 to 2018 and they tested 55,000 people.
And here's the shocker folks, they found that only 6.8% of Americans have optimal cardiometabolic health. 6.8 folks, that means 93.2% of Americans are in poor metabolic health. That means they have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, they're overweight or obese or have had a heart attack or stroke. And all those are indications of underlying poor metabolic health that are driven by inflammation. In terms of diabetes, about 38.4 million Americans have diabetes. More than 10% of the population, one in 10 people, 30 million people or 22% go undiagnosed. And if you took it pre-diabetes in insulin resistance probably affects far more than that. I said one in two Americans is what they say, or 130 million Americans conservatively having pre-diabetes, but I think it's way more than that. And of those who have pre-diabetes, and here's a shocker, 84% didn't know they have it. And this is what we're finding at function health.
When people lose their tests, they have no idea. They have abnormal blood sugar, abnormal insulin, they have abnormal lipid profiles, they look at cardiometabolic risk through the lens of insulin resistance. We look at c-reactive protein and see elevations. So we're seeing this broad population based phenomena of extremely poor metabolic health and it's driving inflammation throughout the body. So of course it's not just affecting the brain, which we're talking about today, not just affecting mood, but it's affecting everything that is going on in our society that's driving our $4.3 trillion of healthcare costs, bankrupting our nation, creating tremendous downward pressure on our society in terms of impaired educational capacity, military readiness, productivity. I mean, we lost $2 trillion in productivity globally because of poor health related to chronic disease related to our diet. Now, what happened was that after World War ii, the diet shifted to focus on convenience and shelf stable foods, and that was the beginning of this crisis.
And another study in 2018 published in the British Medical Journal using the same data, the anything data, they found that 60% of American calories from 2007 to 2012 came from ultra processed foods and kids at 67% of their diet. That's almost 70% of kids diets are not even food. They wouldn't really be called food if you actually looked at what the definition of food was, which is something that contains nutrients and is nourishing. It doesn't even meet that. You just look at the Webster dictionary, it doesn't even meet the definition of food. Now, that's shocking. A new machine learning technology that is called Food Pro x predicts that over 73% of the US food supply is ultra processed. So what is ultra processed food? Well, it's packaged breads, cookies, sugar sweetened beverages, cereals, margarine sauces, dressing spreads, hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, pretty much anything that's made in a factory, right?
My joke is if it's grown in a plant, eat it. If it's made in a plant, don't eat it right? Or if it has a label, don't eat it, right? I mean, your almond doesn't have a barcode or egg, doesn't have a barcode or ingredient list. Avocado doesn't have an ingredient list. So buy things without ingredient list. Now, if you want to buy a can of sardines or a can of tomatoes or a bottle of olive oil, that's fine. You know what? You can read the ingredients, they're listed in English, and they are things that you would recognize and have in your kitchen and your probably great grandmother would know what they are, but don't eat stuff that's not food. That's really, really important. And it's across the spectrum of all diseases, not just mental health issues. So how are these processed foods driving this poor metabolic health?
Well, this food drives, as I said, insulin resistance and pre-diabetes and we'll call metabolic syndrome drives obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, violence, even Alzheimer's. So these are all driving this phenomena that is leading to chronic illness and accelerated aging. So it pretty much causes everything. Now, not obviously everything, but I'm being facetious, but you get the point when the majority of our energy intake comes from this ultra processed food and from highly palate foods that are rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars and added sugars that are full of inflammatory fats and refined oils, it does havoc to our system. According to the USDA, food availability per capita data system, in 2021, the average American consumed 113 pounds of added sugar and sweeteners or more than 22 teaspoons per day. Now, I don't have 22 teaspoon day. I mean, imagine putting 22 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, but it's hidden everywhere.
It's in your ketchup and your salad dressing and your bread and pretty much everything. So if you look at the label, and by the way, there are 50 names of sugar, right? And as I as Shakespeare said, a rose is about a rose by any other name, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar. And if you look up kind of on Google, what are the 50 names of sugar, you're going to be shocked at what they are, and there are things you wouldn't even recognize that are put on the label. And here's another trick by a dirty trick by the way that the food industry does in Europe. You have to weight foods by percentage of the food, and you have to kind of list the percentage of each ingredient. What happens is, in terms of order of the food and amount in the American label, you have to put the gradient that has the highest amount of whatever it is first, and then you sort of put the rest.
But what they do in American foods is they put in five different kinds of sugar because it allows them to have smaller amounts of those, but at all, if you add them all up, it's way more than the main ingredient in the food. So that's really kind of sneaky. So 113 pounds of sugar, the consumption of high fructose corn syrup has increased by get this 6700%, 6700% since 1970, and the consumption of refined grains has averaged 149 pounds per person every year. And refined flour acts just like sugar in the body. There's no difference. The body can't tell below the neck the difference between a bowl of corn flakes and a bowl of sugar. Now, food's high in refined starches and sugars. What do they do? Well, they lead to high blood sugar and insulin spikes. They create inflammation, oxidative stress, belly fat. We talked about all this, and it wreaks havoc on your gut and it drives all sorts of bad bacteria growing, basically feeding all the bad guys.
And these bad guys spew out molecules that cause inflammation and that penetrates the gut lining, which causes something called a leaky gut. And then food particles and bacterial toxins and other inflammatory metabolites kind of leak into the bloodstream driving inflammation throughout your whole body and even your brain, especially your brain. In fact, if you eat a typical American diet, your brain is on fire. Excess calories from carbs are converted into body fat basically because insulin is a fat storage hormone. And what kind of fat, visceral fat, belly fat, we call VAT, you know what that is? And what does that do? Well, that leaks all these pro-inflammatory cytokines into the bloodstream, and it creates chronic low grade inflammation, and it's affecting not just your heart and your liver and your kidneys and your blood vessels, but it's affecting your brain. And the problem with the brain is if you have arthritis and inflammation, your joint, you know it, your joint's swollen, it's painful.
If you have inflammation from a sore throat from strep, it hurts, right? It's inflamed, it's red, it's painful. If your brain's inflamed, it doesn't have the same way of seeing ouch. And the way it says ouch is through mental illness, through neurocognitive disease and neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental diseases like autism, a, d, D. So we have to kind of take a real serious look at what we can do to address this overwhelming amount of inflammation over time. High carb, high fat diets do a lot of bad things. They increase your cholesterol, the bad kind, the inflammatory kind. They lead to fatty liver, and this affects, I think a hundred million people. We call it nafld, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. There wasn't even such a thing. I mean, it was just alcoholic fatty liver. Now there's basically sugar fatty liver, and the biggest cause of liver transplants is now not hepatitis or alcoholism, but fatty liver from drinking sodas and eating sugar, you end up with all kinds of dysfunction that goes throughout your whole body with insulin resistance in every aspect of your biology, from your fat tissue to your muscles, to your liver, and it just creates this negative feedback loop driving inflammation.
Now, all the references, all the citations that back up, what I'm saying, are going to be included in the show notes. So if you want to get a deeper dive, you want to kind of get deeper into the science around this and track down those studies, you can go to the show notes because all of it's in there. Alright, so how does inflammation in the body lead to inflammation in the brain? Now, what we learned in med school was that the blood brain barrier is highly selective. It's a protective barrier in the central nervous system, and that separates the circulating blood from the brain and the extracellular fluid in the nervous system. Now, we were taught pretty much that this barrier was impenetrable, but it's not. And what we've learned now is just like you can have a leaky gut, you can have a leaky brain, and this, my friends, is what's going on at scale in the American population and increasingly globally, because we've had a global world that's adapted our bad eating habits, we basically created the worst diet on the planet and exported it to every country in the world.
What happens from any source of inflammation, gut microbes, sugar in your diet, toxins, infections, allergens, it causes a disruption in the brain barrier that disrupts the tight junctions that line the blood vessels in the brain, and that causes a breakdown in that barrier causing a leaky brain. Now, leaky brain's bad because it allows all sets of inflammatory garbage into your brain contributing to what we call neuroinflammation brain on fire, and it potentially exacerbates all sorts of neurologic diseases, not just things like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but all the mental health issues we're facing in our society today. Depression, anxiety, a DH, adhd, bipolar disease, even aggression and violence. Now, I think our diet for the most part, and there are other factors, obviously many other factors, but I think our diet is a major, if not the major factor contributing to our inflamed society and to the polarization we're seeing and to the conflict we're seeing increasingly here and around the world.
So how does inflammation impact our brain? Well, our ability to regulate our mood and to make sense of our motions comes from this crosstalk between our amygdala and our prefrontal cortex. We talked about this a little, but the prefrontal cortex is like the adult in the brain. It's the executive function. It's the wise elder, kind of evaluates options and doesn't do the stupid thing, right? The amygdala is the reactive part of the brain. It's the ancient part of the brain. The limbic center, also known as something that controls fight or flight or freeze or fawn in different areas, feeding reproduction. It's involved in all these basic life functions that we need for survival, and it's highly driven by impulse. It's unregulated. If it's not controlled by the prefrontal cortex, you're in trouble because they're in constant communication with each other. Your amygdala might go, Hey, I'm going to punch that guy in the face.
You looked at me wrong. Well, your prefrontal cortex would probably go probably not a good idea and you wouldn't do it. But if the amygdala's unregulated because the connection and the communication between the amygdala and the frontal lobe is disturbed because of inflammation, then we're in trouble. Then we have an unregulated amygdala running our society and everybody and driving unregulated emotions and aggression and behavior issues that we're seeing everywhere. Now, the amygdala is involved in processing feelings and emotions. It's related to survival. It's our fight or flight response, and the prefrontal cortex is the most evolved part of our brain, right? It's regulating impulse control, emotional regulation. It's responsible for decision-making, solving problems, social behavior, and lots of other higher order cognitive abilities. Now does this in part by quieting the amygdala. So a good prefrontal cortex will say, Hey, shut up. Don't punch that guy.
Don't do that stupid thing. Don't steal that cookie. Whatever it is, your prefrontal cortex will be very engaged in regulating the activity of the amygdala. But when that crosstalk is damaged, when we lose that ability to have good crosstalk between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, which makes it easier to control our mood, our behavior anxiety, we get in trouble. Now, new research and thinking by Dr. David Perlmutter and his son Austin Perlmutter, who had on the podcast in their book Brainwash, propose a profound link between inflammation and the disconnection between our amygdala and our prefrontal cortex. On the book, they suggest that inflammation interferes with this functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex, which is the adult of the room and the amygdala, which is the untamed wild animal controlling our impulses and our fight or flight system. So without that adult supervision of the prefrontal cortex, the emotional brain takes over and we lose our ability to properly regulate our feelings and emotions.
Now in this large review of human and animal evidence presented by Kim, and link is in the show notes, the weak connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is associated with lots of elevated amygdala activity and increased feelings of anxiety and mood issues. Now, when you have excessive amygdala activation, it can induce all sorts of psychiatric disorders, anxiety, PTSD, depression and more. Now, what are some examples and what is some of the data that basically underscores and creates evidence? For what I'm saying, what's the data? Well, actually, I wouldn't call it exactly data, but there was an interesting case, a legal case where there was a defense made for a murderer called the Twine Defense. You might've heard about this, but Twinky defense was the name given to the 1979 trial of Dan White, who was a former San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated the mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone and his fellow supervisor Harvey Milk.
Now, during the trial, white's defense lawyers argued that he had diminished capacity to make decisions due to depression. They suggested it was partly evidenced by his consumption of junk food, including Twinkies. The defense sought to show that whites change in diet and other behaviors were symptoms of depression, which affected his judgment and mental state. Now, instead of being convicted of first degree manslaughter, the charge was reduced because of the twinky defense and he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. That's pretty interesting. So what's the link we have? What's the evidence? That was an interesting case, but what's the real evidence we have for the link between junk food, sugar sweetened beverages and psychological distress? Well, a review of the research for the focus on adolescence was done, and it was called the Caspian four study. It took a national sample of 13,486 Iranian children and adolescents age six to 18, and it looked at the frequency of junk food consumption and their mental health.
Now, the results indicated a significant association between the frequency of junk food consumption and psychiatric illnesses. I'm going to say that again. This was 13,000 kids. The results indicated a significant association between the frequency of junk food consumption and psychiatric distress. There was a significant association between violent behaviors and the intake of junk foods. The daily consumption of sweetened beverages and snacks significantly increased. The odds of self-reported psychiatric distress, the daily consumption of salty snacks, which are also filled with all sorts of other crap in ultra processed food, was significantly associated with violent behavior, including get this a 39% increased odds of physical fighting and 19% increased odds of being a victim and 55% increased odds of bullying. Now, in another paper in 2023, a review paper published in nutritional neuroscience, yes, that's a thing. Researchers examined the link between junk food consumption and psychological distress in adolescence.
Now they analyze 17 articles on junk food consumption in relation to depression, stress, anxiety, sleep dissatisfaction, and happiness in children and adolescents, the highest junk food consumers had 62% higher odds for depression, 34% higher odds for stress, and 24% higher odds for anxiety, 17% higher odds for sleep dissatisfaction, and 17% lower odds for happiness. Now, that's a lot to swallow. Think about what we're doing to our children, right? Think about it. I mean, if we were a foreign nation doing what we're doing to our kids, we'd probably go to war to protect our children, wouldn't we? Another study, and this is another one, in 2023, it was titled The Association Between University Student Junk Food Consumption and Mental Health, and it was published in the Journal of Nutrition Health. It showed that the daily consumption of junk food was linked to a four and a half fold or a 450% increased odds of stress and 11 fold.
In other words, 1100% increased odds of anxiety and a 7.9 fold or a 790% increase odds of depression. Now, I just want to make a point here. When you do a study on a drug to show that it's effective or causes an effect, if there's a 20 or 30% increase in benefit over placebo, or if there's a risk factor where there's a 20 or 30% increase, like for example, they say processed meat causes a 20% increased risk in your risk of colon cancer, and that's 20%. Here we're talking about 450%, 1100%, 790%. These are just staggering numbers in scientific research that you don't usually see and are highly related. If there's a correlation over two, a hundred percent, then there's now, there was another study in Korea that looked at sugar sweetened beverages and fast foods and how it affected adolescents mental health. And in the study, they aim to assess the effects of combining sugar sweetened beverages and fast foods on mental health, how it affects stress, depression, and suicidal ideation Among Korean high school students.
They combine the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, basically sodas, all the sugary drinks we have and fast foods. When they did that, they had a far more significant association with stress, depression, and suicidal ideation than their independent consumption. If you just look for example, at sugar sweetened beverages or just looked at junk food, but if you combine them, it was very clear there was a significant effect. The consumption of sugary drinks and fast food is probably dose dependent, and it has dose dependent negative effects on stress depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in adolescence. The data is just clear, and you can look at the references, you can read them yourself. I'm not making this stuff up. In addition to studies on children, it also affects adults. There was a study of women in midlife who had depressive symptoms and they had a 54% higher odds of reporting higher fast food intake.
In other words, if you're a middle-aged woman and you're eating fast food, you're going to have a 54% higher risk of being depressed. Okay, now, what's the link between junk food consumption and not just depression anxiety, but violence and aggression? Well, here's what the research says in the study titled The Twinky Defense, the relationship between carbonated non diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston High School students was inspired by that famous trial that I just mentioned. They found that these Boston Public Health School students were asked how often they drank non-diet, basically regular sugary soft drinks, and whether they carried a weapon or engaged in physical violence with a peer. Now, adolescents who drank more than five cans of soft drinks per week, which was about 30% of the group, were significantly more likely to have carried a weapon and to have been violent with their peers, their family members, and their dates.
Frequent soft drink consumption in the study was associated with a nine to 15% point increase in the probability of engaging in aggressive actions even after you control for gender, age, race, body mass index, typical sleep patterns, tobacco use, alcohol use, and having family dinners. So I just want to pause there for a minute because that's a lot, right? We're talking about studies that are showing the kids, and this also applies to adults for sure who drink a lot of soft drinks or eat a lot of junk food tend to be more violent, and they're more likely to have weapons and do bad stuff with them. So how much of our school shootings and miscellaneous violence we see every week, we've almost become numb to it. I mean, this just didn't exist when I was a kid. It was like a shoot up everywhere in a parking lot, in a football game at the Super Bowl and schools.
I mean, it's just gotten out of control. And why is that happening? Could it be our inflamed brains that are linked to our current toxic diet? Now, there are other factors, as I mentioned, including environmental toxins and other things, but I think our diet is clearly a factor and it's something we can modify, and it just makes me a little bit crazy when I see this data and I don't see anybody talking about it, which is why I'm doing this health bite to help you really understand the data and to put this out there in the world. Now, what about candy consumption in childhood? Well, there's another study that looked at candy consumption in childhood and how it predicted violence in adulthood. They found that basically kids who ate candy daily at age 10 were far more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 than kids who didn't eat candy every day.
And that relationship was really robust even after for controlling for all the other potential confounding factors, ecological factors, and individual factors. Another study, it was a case control study of young adolescent girls, girls who had more simple carbs like basically flour products, bread, potatoes, rice, but most likely kind of snack, right? Cakes, candies, donuts, sugary foods, flour foods was associated with, and get this a 14 times higher odds of aggressive behavior. That's 1400%. Think about it, if you eat junk food sugar in too much refined carbohydrates, your risk of being aggressive goes up by 14 fold or 1400%. That's terrifying. It was interesting when they looked at things like dietary fiber, Omega-3 fats, vitamin K, and kids who had more of that, it reduced the odds of aggressive behavior. So wow, just eating more fiber and taking some supplements or having more omega threes or vitamin K in your diet can reduce your risk of aggressive behavior.
I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I wrote a book called The UltraMind Solution where really mapped out the role of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies on our mood, our cognitive function, our attention and behavior. So I think it's really real. I mean, I've seen this in my practice many times and we're deficient in many things like zinc. We have a lot of low lithium levels, which is not typically considered an essential nutrient, but it really is part of our biology. And so there's a lot of things we can do to deal with these types of deficiencies if we actually target them. Now, is there a link between ultra processed foods and psychosocial functioning, meaning an inability to perform and engage in basic social and interpersonal things that you have to do to function life and to have emotional regulation and to have executive function?
Well, they found that ultra processed food and drinks, sodas and so forth were associated with abnormal psychosocial functioning and adolescents. And this was a group of Spanish kids, 14 to 17 who consumed on average about eight servings of ultra processed food a day, cold meat cookies, processed meat chocolates, candy snacks, you name it, sauces, and they had fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity levels that were below what was recommended in the population. And then kids who ate this junk food over 26% showed psychosocial impairment. In other words, they had depression, anxiety, they externalized problems, internalized problems on the externalizing problems, turns out to cause fighting, teasing others, not listening to rules, refusing to share, not playing nice in the sandbox, not understanding others' feelings, taking things that belong to others. I mean, this kind of sounds like our society at this point, right? Not listening to the rules, not understanding each other's feelings, not listening to anybody else fighting conflict.
I mean, what's going on in our society now? What about A DHD and is there a link between junk food consumption and A DHD in kids and adolescents? Well, in a number of studies, this has been shown to be true kids who had less adherence to a healthy diet. In other words, they weren't eating fruits and vegetables and good quality food and food had a sevenfold greater risk of having a DHD. So if you don't need a healthy diet, your risk of having a DHD was 700% higher. Again, these are just staggering numbers in research. I just can't express that enough. If you look for example, statins, it's a blockbuster drug. It lowers the risk of having a heart attack by a whopping 30%, and here we're talking about 700%. Now, sugar, candy, cola beverages, non cola soft drinks and low consumption of fatty fish were also associated with a higher risk of having a DHD.
So basically, if you eat junk food and sugar and you don't have good foods like omega foods and healthy veggies, you're going to have a high risk of having a DHD. And again, more than 14% of kids are on a DHD medication. This is not a normal condition of being a child. I mean, there was that one kid in my class when I was young, was kind of a troublemaker, but that was it, and the rest of us were fine. So this is just an epidemic. So let's talk about now after all this depressing news. What the heck can you do so you can fix your brain and not be depressed and not be aggressive, and not have an uncontrolled impulses and actually enjoy your life? Because at the end of the day, the health of your brain, the term is the quality of your life.
Your brain's not working right. You're making bad decisions, you're having bad relationships, you're not taking care of yourself, and essentially, it's the key to happiness. It's the key to success. It's the key to having a good fulfilling life, and we know how to fix this. It's not rocket science. We know what to eat to address depression and mental health diseases and aggression and violence, and it's what I talk about all the time. It's eating real food. It's eating a whole food nutrient dense diet. It's eating food that's low in starch and sugar that balances your blood sugar by having healthy fats and good quality protein on every meal. It includes keeping the refined sugars and carbs kind of low, right? Or getting rid of most of 'em, right? Eliminate ultra processed food. Just don't eat that crap. Just don't put it back on the shelf.
If you want a cookie, make it yourself. Don't eat stuff that comes from a factory. It's really bad. And this is what we're eating. This again, this is 67% of kids' diet depending on the data you look at. It's either 60 or 73% of our overall diet or the foods out there in the marketplace, bread cereals, corn flakes, frosted flakes, puff, the wheat, granola bagels, pasta, pastries, all foods containing high fructose corn syrup, which is pretty much almost everything in the sewer market. Artificial sweeteners are problematic for many reasons. We'll get into that in another podcast, but things like aspartame, sorbitol, processed fruit juices, oh, fruit juice is not actually good. It's not fruit, it's fruit juice, so eat fruit, but the fruit juice is just maybe like a soda with a bit of vitamins in it, so load with sugar. Also, make sure you get protein.
Protein, really important. The amino acids and protein are really critical, and they're building blocks for our neurotransmitters, for our mood, chemicals for hormones, things like tryptophan, which comes from pasture-based Turkey, chicken, eggs, almonds, and peanuts. It's important for making serotonin tyrosine important for dopamine, which is basically talking about dopamine hits. Well, that's the amino acid that can help norepinephrine, epinephrine, really critical molecules in your body and those you can get from grass fed and generally raised beef, lamb, fish and chicken, and lots of nuts and seeds, eggs, beans, just real food. And then you want to make sure you include foods that have well researched evidence for boosting brain and mood function, including things like omega fats. These come from salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, small halibuts fish. Those are fine, but stay away from the big mercury containing fish. Lots of mono and saturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocados, olives, choline, rich foods.
Choline is one of the most important neurotransmitters in your brain as choline, and you need it from your diet. So pasture raised eggs, and particularly the yolks liver, yum. I like liver, peanuts, cruciferous vegetables, and acetol. Another important vitamin is considered kind of a B vitamin, and it's very important for brain and mood function and anxiety. Things like oranges have it. Grapefruit, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, peanuts, leafy greens, chicken, liver. You need a lot of B vitamins. B vitamins are critical for mood regulation B six in particular, that can come from liver. Also, wild caught, salmon, chicken, folate, really important comes from the word foliage. Folate from dark green, leafy vegetable, spinach, kale, beach 12, really important. That's only from animal protein. Thymine is really important, which can A, B vitamin, B one. That has a big role in our brain function and can help in many ways, and there are lots of ways to get that.
Another critical vitamin for your brain is vitamin D. We know about the winter blues or seasonal effective disorder. You have low vitamin D, so critical to get sunshine, portini, mushrooms, but most of us need to take vitamin D three, probably two to 4,000 units a day. Magnesium also really important. Sleep, relaxation, mineral. It's incredible for mood and cognitive function, anxiety, sleep, stress. We're very low in magnesium. I did a whole health bite on this. We can link to that in the show notes. Nazis, beans are great sources. Zinc is also incredibly important for brain function and things like pumpkin seeds and oysters contain that, and antioxidants are really helpful. And just keeping inflammation down. Things like colorful fruits and vegetables, vitamin E is also important. Get that from almonds and sunflower seeds and hazelnuts. coq 10, really important also for mitochondrial function, energy, meat, particularly chicken hearts.
So don't throw away the little gizzards and stuff inside the chicken, cooked them and eat the heart like poke acid important, which from spinach, so these are all nutrients. They're all in the show notes so you can read about them. Lots of micronutrients play a role. Selenium, lots of fiber is important. Prebiotic fibers to help your gut healthy. Probiotic foods, polyphenol nutrients, all the colorful vegetables and fruits that have plenty of anti-inflammatory compounds. So there's a lot of ways to do this. Again, all this is going to be in the show notes. I've written books about it. It's not a secret what I think about what you should eat, but it's pretty simple. Like Michael Pollen said, eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. So it's pretty simple. We make it a little complicated. And then we have the diet wars, and that's why I wrote the peak in diet as a of a spoof on all the diet wars and what are the 21 principles for eating in a nutritionally confusing world, so you could check that out.
What should we not eat? Well, it's all the stuff I've been talking about. Processed food, junk food, things containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogen oils that are still in the market, all the baked goods and just everything, industrial seed oils, corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, canola, often very problematic. Large fish, which you won't want to avoid, which contain mercury like swordfish tuna and so forth. Dairy can be okay. Goat and sheep I would prefer, but most dairy in this country, I would not even touch with a 10 foot hole. There are other ways to get dairy substitutes. I encourage you to make your own unsweetened almond milk or hazelnut milk. You can make those by soaking them and putting 'em a blender. I have recipes in my cookbooks for that. Alcohol not help food for sure. Do you want to have it? Occasionally? Okay, but not a regular habit, not daily, and maybe at the most, one or two drinks a week.
Also, you want to take brain supporting nutrients, right? You want to take things that are going to help your brain work properly, multivitamin and mineral with adequate zinc, and B vitamins, vitamin D, omega, fats, and magnesium just helps address all the widespread nutritional deficiencies or inadequate intake that are linked to mental health issues. And I've written a lot about this. I've wrote a book about it called The Ultra Mind Solution. I have a whole documentary series called Broken Brain. We go deep into this. There's dozens and dozens of hours of video and content, so if you want to learn more, you can check out all of it in the show notes, we'll link to it. But I want to just say as we wrap up this health bite today, that it's really clear that the link between our diet and mental health is not just a theory, but it's a reality affecting millions, and there's something we can do about it.
The evidence is just overwhelming and it's undeniable. The inflammatory ultra process nutrient poor foods that are staples in our diet in the standard American diet or the SAD or sad diet are at the heart, or I should say the brain of a mental health crisis that's showing no signs of slowing down, but there's hope. There's hope by turning back to real food, nutrient dense foods, cutting out all the inflammatory foods hidden in processed foods, making sure we address our nation's widespread nutritional deficiencies. We have the power to combat this and turn the tide of mental illness. Remember, every bite we take is either feeding disease or fighting it, so let's choose to nourish our minds and bodies with the food they truly need and to a happy, healthy life. Thanks for listening today. If you love this podcast, please share it with your friends and family.
We'd love to hear your comments and your questions, and please leave us a rating and review and of course, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can find me on all social media channels at Dr. Mark Hyman, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel at Dr. Mark Hyman. I'm always getting questions about my favorite books, podcasts, gadgets, supplements, recipes, and lots more. And now you can have access to all of this information by signing up for my free Marx Picks slash Marx picks. I promise I'll only email you once a week on Fridays, and I'll never share your email address or send you anything else besides my recommendations. These are the things that have helped me on my health journey, and I hope they'll help you too. Again, that's dr pics. Thank you again, and we'll see you next time on The Doctor's Farmacy.
This podcast is separate from my clinical practice at the Ultra Wellness Center and my work at Cleveland Clinic and Function Health, where I'm the Chief Medical Officer. This podcast represents my opinions and my guest opinions, and neither myself nor the podcast endorse the views or statements of my guests. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. Now, if you're looking for your help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. You can come see us at the Ultra Wellness Center in Lennox, Massachusetts. Just go to ultra wellness If you're looking for a functional medicine practitioner near you, you can visit and search, find a practitioner database. It's important that you have someone in your corner who is trained, who's a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health. Keeping this podcast free is part of my mission to bring practical ways of improving health to the general public and keeping with that theme, I'd like to express gratitude to the sponsors that made today's podcast possible.