Stress causes many of us to turn to sugar as a treat. However, there’s evidence that this has a negative impact on our mental health. In fact, the Scientific Reports Journal recently conducted a study that was published in Medical News Today showing that sugar leads to a higher risk for depression, especially when consumed in a high amount. Some would argue that depression causes them to eat more sugar though. However, the researchers (from the University College London Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health in the United Kingdom) who conducted this study use a mathematical model that excluded this idea calling it “reverse causation.” By doing so they were able to show that sugar consumption came first and was not a consequence of the depression.
The Link Between Your Diet and Mental Health
In 2002 a group of researchers led by Arthur Westover from Dallas’ University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studied sugar consumption’s impact on people in the U.S, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Korea. They found that sugar led to a greater risk of a person developing major depression. Many other research teams have since investigated this link, reaching the same conclusion. Some have also found a link to fast food causing depression.
The Science of Sugar
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Although our bodies do need simple carbohydrates to help our cells and organs function, we don’t need to add sugar to our diet to get these. This is because our bodies don’t differentiate between the different types of sugar they get. So, whether you get it from sugar, corn syrup, honey, fruit, molasses or milk the sugar is used in the exact same way.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) women need 6 teaspoons of sugar daily and men need 9 teaspoons of sugar daily. When you drink a can of soda, you’re getting 8.25 teaspoons of sugar and if you eat a small banana you get 3 teaspoons of sugar. This sugar is bad for your teeth and can cause weight gain. Now we know it also impacts our mental health. This is because sugar affects your neurons – really sensitive cells that can’t handle spikes in your sugar level, which is why diabetics are at risk of neuronal damage and Alzheimer’s, which provides further proof of sugar’s effect on your brain. Other studies have discovered that sugar can cause minor cognitive impairment issues, widespread inflammation, and oxidative stress, especially in seniors.
How to Avoid Sugar’s Pitfalls
It isn’t easy to remove all sugar from your diet since there are so many convenient foods and treats available today. Even healthy foods can contain a lot of hidden sugar. This includes things like cereal, sauce, milk, whole wheat bread, and even low-fat items like yogurt. Sugar is even found in baby and toddler foods today. So the best thing to do is familiarize yourself with nutritional labels so you can see how many carbohydrates and hidden sugars are in a product, especially those claiming “no added sugar.”
Studies show that cutting down on sugar is especially beneficial for anyone who already has a mental health issue. Additionally, these folks should choose foods that are low in other refined ingredients too opting for those that contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are especially important when you’re feeling depressed.
If you’re suffering from depression, don’t try to solve it by loading up on sugar. Instead, you should talk to the professionals at the Advantage Mental Health Center. They’ve helped many people beat their depression over the years and yours should be next.
Picture Credit: Suzy Hazelwood