If you needed an excuse to crack open the biscuits, this is it

Many of us would admit that our greatest sources of happiness are food: a bowl of creamy carbonara, sticky toffee pudding smothered in sauce, melty camembert with bread for dipping… Food is one of life’s biggest pleasures.

And according to new research, you really may be able to eat your way to happiness. Sort of.

Scientists have now found a link between being skinny and depression - and it’s the first significant evidence of its kind.

Although depression amongst obese people is more common in women than men, both genders are equally prone to feeling depressed when it comes to thin people.

The study was conducted by Seoul National University of Medicine, but experts have not concluded whether being skinny is a cause or symptom of depression.

They pointed out that depressed people may be more likely to lose weight, or it could be that being thin makes people depressed.

The researchers analysed data from 183 different studies and drew the conclusion that obesity also increases the risk of depression.

However there are gender differences.

“It seems that the current ideal of thinness affects women more than their male counterparts and causes more psychological distress in women, which can, in turn, lead to depression,” the researchers said.

“In contrast, men who are overweight showed a significantly decreased risk of depression.”

And they pointed out that previous research has suggested that men are more likely to be of a “jolly fat” disposition than women, perhaps because there is still more pressure on women than men to be thin.

“In clinical practice, medical care providers should pay attention to the mental health of people who are underweight,” the experts said.

“Likewise, women who are overweight and obese populations should also be monitored for possible depression.”

Dr Agnes Ayton, vice-chairman of the eating disorders faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This large study confirms that optimal nutrition is fundamentally important for physical and mental health. Both being underweight and obese is associated with an increased risk of depression.

“It is an important finding, as people with eating disorders often assume that losing weight will improve their happiness.

“This study shows that the opposite is true and malnutrition has a detrimental effect on people's mood. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for good mental health.”

Pass the cake. But not too much.

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