Is Your Sweet Tooth Actually Making You Sad?
A new study adds to findings that a high-sugar diet may correlate with an increase in mood disorders.
Next time you reach for that midday-slump cookie, something to consider: Those bites of sugary bliss might actually be bringing you down.
It's a little counterintuitive, considering the ice-cream-makes-you-happy approach most of us have towards the edible coping mechanism that is sugar. But those short-lived good vibes might end up costing you in the long run.
A recent study out of University College London found a link between high-sugar diets and common mental disorders—specifically, depression.
The study followed a group of male British civil servants and found that the who did not have a mood disorder and consumed 67 grams of sugar a day, had a 23 percent increased risk of suffering from a mood disorder five years later, compared with those who ate less than 40 grams of sugar.
As for men and women who were already dealing with a mood disorder, they were also found to be at a higher risk of becoming depressed again if they ate a higher-sugar diet, compared with those who ate less sugar.
This adds to an already significant body of studies, including a 2002 study in six counties that found refined sugar consumption was associated with higher rates of depression, and a 2014 study in the US that found sugary drinks could increased the risk of developing depression.
The World Health Organization suggests that adults consume 25 grams of sugar a day (or roughly 5 percent of your daily energy intake), which can easily be surpassed with a couple of sweet indulgences.
For quick reference: Three Oreos will put you at 14 grams; a half cup of Haagen Dazs Carmel Cone ice cream dishes up 24 grams, and a can of Coke has 39 grams.
Oof. The study puts forward several theories as to how sugar can affect your mental state: A reduction of a protein called BDNF that influences the growth and development of nerve cells in the brain; inflammation, which has previously been linked with mood disorders; and the addictive nature of dopamine, which is the pleasure-inducing brain chemical that’s released when you eat something sugary. The cliche of self-medicating with chocolate is very valid, in other words.
Treating yourself is what life's all about, but with the connection between sustained high-sugar consumption and mental disorders, it might be wise to keep an eye on that particular section of the nutrition label.
And lest you get too bummed, keep in mind that a 2015 study found that the correlation between added sugar and depression did not exist with naturally-occurring sugars such as those found in fruit.
Which is great, because a handful of blueberries is pretty much the same as a handful of M&Ms. Right? Right.
Words: Deena Drewis
Photos: Tatjana Ristanic / GIPHY