Most people are born with a sweet tooth. We crave sweets especially when we’re feeling stressed or anxious or depressed, as sweets make us feel better although temporarily. But, sugar should only be consumed in very small or moderate quantities, as excessive sugar intake is associated with numerous health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
The Impact Of Sugar On Your Body And Mind
A diet that includes high levels of sugar can affect your quality of life in many ways and lead to a wide range of problems such as skin issues, fatigue, and weight gain. So, it’s no surprise that studies have linked a high intake of added sugar to depressive symptoms. Scientific research has found a close association between sugar intake, anxiety, and depression before. But, many people thought that the mood disorders might occur first, which causes people to consume more sugary foods because of the mental health issue.
So, this recent study was an eye-opener as it took this possibility into consideration, but found no evidence that people with mood disorders eat more sugar. It eliminates this possibility and strengthens the initial hypothesis that a high-sugar diet is detrimental to mental health. The study published in the journal Scientific Reports is another crucial piece of evidence that clearly suggests that a high sugar intake is bad for health.
Research And Study Findings
Researchers from the University College London (UCL) collected data from 5000 men and 2000 women. Food consumption and mood changes were evaluated using standardized questionnaires over a five-year period. The results found that men who consumed high levels of sugar (over 67 grams per day) were 23 percent more likely to suffer from a mental health condition compared to men whose daily intake was less than 39.5 grams of sugar.
In the recent years, sugar consumption has become an increasingly discussed and researched topic. Experts have warned that sugar intake must be downsized to reduce the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
According to statistics, adults in the US consume approximately triple the recommended level of added sugar for additional health benefits (5 percent of energy intake), with sweet foods and drinks contributing three-quarters of the intake. Higher sugar consumption is linked to higher depression prevalence in several ecological and cross-sectional studies.1
According to UCL research, men with a high sugar intake have an increased risk of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. One of the authors of the study at UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health concluded that their research findings provide further evidence that sugary foods and drinks are best avoided.2
Moreover, other studies and research have also established a link between sugar and depression. A study across six countries found a highly significant connection between sugar intake and the rate of depression.3
In a report published in the Cambridge University Press, frequent consumption of fast food and commercial baked goods was shown to increase the risk of depression up to 38 percent.4
Reinforcing this finding was another study, which concluded that both sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened drinks increase the chances of developing depression.5
Can We Completely Avoid Sugar?
When studies have shown that sugar can complicate our health, why can’t we just stop consuming sugar? The truth is, it’s not that simple. The same sugary foods that elevate your mood when you’re feeling low are the ones that later cause mental health problems. So, it is both good and bad.
The relationship between sugar and mood is complicated as foods high in sugar can create short-term feelings of happiness by providing temporary relief from anxiety and depression.
This is not only ironic but also the reason why we find it hard to eliminate sugar from our diet, as a lot of people depend on the daily dose of feel-good hormones in the brain triggered by the intake of sugary foods such as chocolates, cookies or sodas.
|↑1||Knüppel, Anika, Martin J. Shipley, Clare H. Llewellyn, and Eric J. Brunner. “Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study.” Scientific Reports 7 (2017).|
|↑2||High sugar intake linked with poorer long-term mental health. University College London. 2017.|
|↑3||Westover, Arthur N., and Lauren B. Marangell. “A cross‐national relationship between sugar consumption and major depression?.” Depression and anxiety 16, no. 3 (2002): 118-120.|
|↑4||Sánchez-Villegas, Almudena, Estefania Toledo, Jokin de Irala, Miguel Ruiz-Canela, Jorge Pla-Vidal, and Miguel A. Martínez-González. “Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression.” Public health nutrition 15, no. 3 (2012): 424-432.|
|↑5||Guo, Xuguang, Yikyung Park, Neal D. Freedman, Rashmi Sinha, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Aaron Blair, and Honglei Chen. “Sweetened beverages, coffee, and tea and depression risk among older US adults.” PloS one 9, no. 4 (2014): e94715.|