Can Sugar Really Make You Depressed?

There is a lot of information floating around the internet about the different impacts sugar has on our bodies and minds. It's a well-known fact that overconsumption of sugar can lead to a host of health issues, including diabetes, obesity, and increased blood pressure (via Harvard Health), but could it also lead to other issues within our brains and affect our mental health as well as our physical health?

One study conducted by the University College of London in the 1980s examined the relationship between sugar intake and mental health in a pool of 5,000 men and 2,000 women participants. According to The Guardian, the study "found a strong association between consuming higher levels of sugar and depression in men. Men with the highest intake — more than 67g a day — had a 23% increased chance of suffering a common mental disorder after five years than those who consumed the lowest levels of sugar — less than 39.5g." The researchers followed up to check if the men may be eating more sugary foods because they were depressed, but found this was not the case.

Studies have shown a correlation between sugar intake and depression

A more recent study from Scientific Reports (posted at Nature) looked for evidence as to whether or not sugar consumption leads to mental health issues including depression and anxiety, and the results were a bit shaky. For one thing, as Life Hacker pointed out, the researchers asked a lot of questions and didn't find links for many of them. The study does mention that they found a positive association between diet (where sugar intake is concerned) and mental health, which is similar to what was found in the Whitehall II study conducted in the 1980s. Neither of these studies is the first nor only one of their kind — there are multiple published studies that examine the link between sugar consumption and mental health — but two instances of association between sugar and depression could mean that a high sugar intake is maybe causing issues with depression in some people, particularly men. Watching your sugar intake could be helpful for your health in more ways than one.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.