Depression linked to higher consumption of refined and added sugar

By year 2020, depression is posed to be the second-leading cause of disability and decreased quality of life after heart disease Worldwide. In India, prevalence of depression is around 8 in one thousand and urban population is twice more likely to suffer from depression than ruralIn the modern day, depression can be caused by increasing loneliness and stress associated with the quest for material pleasures and instant gratification. In addition to these, newer studies have shown that the current dietary patterns including more of the refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks and desserts is a big contributor as well!

Surprisingly, individuals with depression have had higher consumption of sweetened beverages, refined carbohydrates (pizzas, burgers, etc) and desserts (cakes, muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, croissant, nankhatais, cookies) in the long term. While most of us are genetically adapted to like sweet foods; but these were limited to intake of sweet tasting, indigenous, natural and fresh fruits and vegetables alone. These foods provided carbohydrates which served as the much needed fuel source for the exhausting daily routines that hunter-gatherers indulged in. Slowly, the level of physical labour began to decline but availability of food increased. The limited food was now replaced by abundant and inexpensive food, mainly processed and pleasing to the palate.

It is the added sugar in the processed foods and not total carbohydrates that have shown to cause increased depression.

What helps to depress the sorrow ?

There are certain foods which help maintain the right balance of hormones, blood supply and overall effective functioning of the body.Such foods have a positive impact on the neurological health as well

  • Whole grains
  • Whole fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts & oilseeds

Isn’t sugar associated with ‘feeling high’

Since a long time, we have believe that when we are unhappy or feeling low, then sugary foods help to lift our mood. This has been attributed to synthesis of a neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a calming effect, in the brain upon consumption of carbohydrates. But, this theory has been negated by some experts stating that most of the sweet tasting foods such as  ice cream, milk chocolate, sweetened yogurts, and egg-based cakes and pastries cannot have a specific serotonin increasing effect

But, rather the spikes and dips in blood sugar caused due to rapidly available sugars (present in processed foods and beverages that have added sugars) can cause anxiety, irritability, and hunger. The sudden fall in blood sugars once all that is present is quickly absorbed can reduce glucose supply to the brain resulting in cognitive impairment, mood and behavioral changes, and fatigue

Also, studies have shown that higher waist circumference which often leads to insulin resistance is associated with more depressive symptoms.

So, here is one more reason to avoid added sugars present as glucose, glucose syrup, table sugar/ sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, etc in most processed and packaged foods. When feeling low, you actually need to find solace in spirituality, family, and friends rather than food. Careful contemplation to find your true purpose of living will be the only tool for providing long term peace and joy to the body, mind and soul.



Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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