What Is the Link Between Sugar and Depression?

A diet of whole foods is certainly preferable to one full of processed, refined foods. We now know that and owe much of the organic craze to this fact. Our bodies are designed to digest and process natural, “real” food. But start putting more and more of the man-made stuff in your body and your body doesn’t know what to do with it all. Nutrients can’t be absorbed, energy is low, and we are susceptible to a long list of disorders and illnesses due to it all.

Sugar, for example, is something that naturally exists in complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s also found in simple carbohydrates from refined foods like pasta, cakes, bread, sodas, and candy. Researches recently studied data among 3,486 people broken up into these two categories: those whose diet relied heavily on simple carb-heavy processed foods and those who ate more whole foods, loaded with fruits, vegetables, and fish. After studying these two groups for five years, they discovered that people had as much as 95% lower risk of depression when their diet is more dependent on whole foods. In another study conducted in Spain, researchers found that subjects who ate the most baked goods had a 38% higher risk of depression than those who ate fewer baked goods. 

So, with clear and definitive proof that there is a link between sugar and depression, it’s important to try to understand why and how as well.

First, it’s been found that sugar, inflammation, and depression are all linked, with sugar triggering inflammation and chronic inflammation linked to everything from cancer to asthma, and depression. The loss of appetite, changes in sleep patterns, and heightened perceptions of pain linked to both, researchers believe there is room to accept causation. “Inflammatory conditions may precipitate or perpetuate depression, but the precise relationship is unclear,” the study wrote.

Ok so we’re a little closer to understanding another link between sugar and depression, but still no full answer as to how one causes the other. Researchers are so convinced of the link between the two that they’ve even gone so far as to using insulin to treat depression. Insulin is the hormone made by your pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates, which is stored for future use or used as energy. In one study, researchers found that people with resistance to insulin showed major improvements in their depression symptoms. When they were given the medication to treat their diabetes for 12 weeks. There’s still not enough research completed for doctors to start prescribing insulin as a depression treatment, but the link between the sugar-using hormone and depression in that study is again, clear enough to see that somehow and someway there is a connection between sugar intake and depression.

And it’s important to note that while sugar is something that can be naturally found in many whole foods, the culprit often seems to be the sugar intake derived from the processed foods that are so readily available in the average diet today.

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