Is your diet making you depressed?

Is your diet making you depressed?

Men are more likely to have a mood disorder with the more sugar they consume, according to a new study from University College London.

The study, which surveyed more than 7,000 people and followed them for 22 years, discovered that men who consumed over 67 grams of sugar a day were 23 percent more likely to develop a mental health condition than those who took in less than 39.5 grams.

It is recommended that less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from added sugars. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 42 percent of Americans meet that guideline.

While there have been numerous studies linked to sugar and mood disorders, this is one of the first to consider “reverse causation.” In other words, this study factored in the possibility that people with mood disorders may simply be more likely to choose foods with more sugar. As a result, the study found this possibility to be untrue, confirming that the extra added sugar in diets tends to lead to mood disorders and not vice-versa.

The study further elaborates on the different effects sugar can have on the brain. For example, high sugar can reduce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that helps brain cells to grow and develop. Furthermore, high sugar can cause inflammation, linked to depression. It can also change your insulin response after eating, causing your hormones to drop.

While this study may be focused on men, Dr. Yasser Said, a hospitalist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. reminds us it’s important to consume a well-balanced diet.

“There’s more to eating a well-balanced diet than simply consuming the recommended intake of daily calories,” says Dr. Said. “A well-balanced diet means you’re eating the right amount of nutrients to supply your body with the energy it needs to function. This means not only the right amount of calories, but the right supply of sugars, proteins, carbohydrates and so on.”

Additionally, Dr. Said says “there is growing evidence that brain neurochemistry is in some cases dramatically impacted by nutrition.” He expects future research will show more links between high intake of sugars, carbohydrates and mental illness and well-being.

If you’re concerned about how your diet might be affecting your mood, Dr. Said recommends you visit a dietitian. However, he also offers a few options which may help you lower your daily sugar intake and promote a healthy diet:

  • Swap soda with water
  • Eat fewer foods with added sugars and try eating more foods with natural sugars, such as fruit
  • Search for foods labeled “unsweetened” or “no added sugars”
  • Add more healthy fats to your diet, which will keep you fuller longer and decrease your desire for sugar

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About the Author

Jamie Bonnema
Jamie Bonnema

Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.