HealthDay News — Depression may increase the risk of poor nutrition and obesity among Americans receiving food assistance, a new study suggests.

The researchers looked at more than 600 people who were the main food shoppers in low-income families living in “food deserts” in Pittsburgh. The term refers to neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods, such as fresh produce. All of the participants were enrolled in a food assistance program.

There was a strong link between depression, poor nutrition and high body-mass index (BMI) — an estimate of body fat based on height and weight, according to the study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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However, the research did not prove that depression was a cause of bad eating habits or obesity.

“This group is at particularly high risk of obesity and poor nutrition,” lead investigator Karen Florez, PhD, MPH, an associate social scientist at the Rand Corp., said in a journal news release. “Thus, the finding that depression is associated with even higher risk within this already high-risk group suggests a potential avenue for intervention is a focus on mental health.”

Further research is needed to determine if eating a healthier diet and controlling weight may improve mental health in this group of people, Florez added.


Florez KR, et al. Associations between Depressive Symptomatology, Diet, and Body Mass Index among Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015; doi: