Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Depressive Symptoms in a Mediterranean Cohort

Justyna Godos, Marialaura Bonaccio, Wahidah H. Al-Qahtani, Wolfgang Marx, Melissa M. Lane, Gian Marco Leggio, Giuseppe Grosso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Excess consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is currently under investigation for its potentially detrimental impact on human health. Current evidence demonstrates a substantial association with an increased risk of metabolic disorders, but data on mental health outcomes are just emerging. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between the consumption of UPFs and depressive symptoms in a sample of younger Italian adults. A cross-sectional study was conducted on 596 individuals (age 18–35 y) recruited in southern Italy. Food frequency questionnaires and the NOVA classification were used to assess dietary factors; the Center for the Epidemiological Studies of Depression Short Form (CES-D-10) was used to assess presence of depressive symptoms. Individuals in the highest quartile of UPF consumption had higher odds of having depressive symptoms in the energy-adjusted model (odds ratio (OR) = 1.89, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 3.28); the association remained significant after adjusting for potential confounding factors (OR = 2.04, 95% CI: 1.04, 4.01) and became even stronger after further adjustment for adherence to the Mediterranean diet as a proxy of diet quality (OR = 2.70, 95% CI: 1.32, 5.51). In conclusion, a positive association between UPF consumption and likelihood of having depressive symptoms was found in younger Italian individuals. Given the consistency of the findings after adjustment for diet quality, further studies are needed to understand whether non-nutritional factors may play a role in human neurobiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number504
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


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