Eating sugar has been linked to anxiety and depression, which are both on the rise. Studies have shown that people who eat a high amount of sugar are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, regardless of other factors such as socioeconomic status, use of alcohol, exercise, smoking, body weight and overall health.
After eating sweet foods, people experience positive feelings for a short amount of time. Sometimes when people are not feeling well emotionally, they actually turn to sugar to increase their happiness. However, a high intake of sugar is likely to have the opposite effect from what people intend.
Studies have linked the per capita consumption of sugar with the prevalence of major depression in 6 countries, discovering a significant correlation between sugar consumption and depression. Studies have even specifically linked eating baked goods to depression.
High sugar diets also increase depression in postmenopausal women. With a high dietary glycemic index, the risk of depression rises. However, a diet that is full of whole fruits and vegetables, fiber, and lactose is associated with a lower risk of depression.
How Sugar Increases Your Depression Risk
Eating excessive amounts of sugar has several impacts on your body. It affects mental health by contributing to insulin and leptin resistance, it suppresses the activity of a growth hormone that creates healthy brain neurons, it affects dopamine levels, and it damages mitochondria.
When your mitochondria are damaged, your energy declines and your brain is unable to properly function. Including healthy dietary fats in your diet can help improve the health of mitochondria. One of the healthiest types of fats are the long-chained animal-based omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA. These are anti-inflammatory fats that can lower one's risk of depression.
Inflammation and Depression
Studies have found that inflammation may be the primary risk factor for depression. Physical and psychological factors can increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for depression that underlies all the others.
Inflammation explains why other risk factors also increase the risk of depression. In fact, depression may come from a chronic inflammatory syndrome, perhaps in the gastrointestinal tract.
Artificial Sweeteners and Depression
While many people swap refined sugar for artificial sweeteners, this is not a healthy thing to do. Artificial sweeteners can be even more harmful to your health than refined sugar. Aspartame has been linked to anxiety, agitation, depression, and irritability and people with mood disorders are especially sensitive to aspartame. Research has also shown that excessive aspartame consumption may compromise emotional functioning.
Address the Root Causes of Depression
Depression is the leading cause of poor health worldwide, affecting around 322 million people, including over 16 million Americans. Rates have continued to increase and 11% of Americans over 12 are already on antidepressant drugs. Additionally, 25% of women in their 40s and 50s are on antidepressants.
There are several factors that contribute to depression, with diet being one of them. Reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet is a vital step to preventing depression.
One way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat whole foods instead of replace processed foods. Eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety. It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables so you are sure to have a complete diet of all of the important nutrients.
Because there are many harmful side effects that are associated with antidepressants, it is important to address the lifestyle-based root causes of depression. Drugs will mask the problem of depression, but are not able to heal it.
Antidepressants can also worsen a situation because some are associated with an increased risk of violence and suicide and even a worsened mental state in the long term. Before taking medication, it is important to consider addressing some lifestyle changes such as:
- Limiting microwave exposure from wireless technologies
- Get regular exercise
- Optimize your gut health
- Eat a healthy and well-rounded diet
It is very important to make sure you do not have any vitamin deficiencies because they can result in depression. There are also several herbs and supplements that can be taken instead of antidepressant medications to help reduce symptoms. Some of these include:
- St. John's Wort
- S-Adenosyl methionine
Overall, limiting sugar consumption and making sure that your body is healthy are the best ways to decrease your odds of experiencing depression. Watch your diet and exercise as well as other lifestyle choices to keep your mental health in tact.