The Link Between Sugar and Your Mood
We’ve all experienced the emotional impact of a sugar crash, the moody, disoriented, anxious feeling commonly experienced a few hours after consuming heavy sugar and carbs. Doctors and scientists call it “reactive hypoglycemia.” Symptoms can include fatigue, unclear thinking, headaches, irritability, tremors, and yes, even depression.
A recent study from the University College London looked at the diets of 8,000 people over the course of 22 years. The scientists found that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar a day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression in a five-year period, compared to men who consumed 40 grams or less. Though none of the participants were treated for depression when the study began, the connection between sugar and depression clearly appeared during the first five-year survey, and the incidence remained steady throughout the remaining 17 years.
We all know by now that excessive sugar consumption causes a host of negative physical health effects, including increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. But what is the emotional toll of a high-sugar diet? While it’s extreme to say “sugar makes you depressed,” recent science strongly points to a correlation between sugar and mood. In an age when we eat more sugar than ever, this should not be overlooked.
Sugar puts stress on the body
Columbia University psychiatrist James Gangswisch found that the consumption of sugary beverages and foods was linked to an increased risk for depression in a study of postmenopausal women. His theory is that sugar makes blood sugar quickly peak and then rapidly plummet. This roller coaster effect on blood sugar puts a lot of stress on the body, causing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to be released. Numerous studies have shown that chronic stress contributes to anxiety and depression. Psychologists call this the “stress-depression link”.
Sugar suppresses important hormones in the brain
Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) promotes the health and maintenance of neurons in the brain. This growth hormone also plays a vital role in memory function by triggering the growth of new connections between neurons. Studies have shown links between low BDNF and various neurological disorders, including memory loss, anxiety, and depression. Scarily, scientists have discovered that consuming a high-sugar diet reduces BDNF levels in the brain.
Sugar causes inflammatory responses across the body
Depression is often associated with high levels of an inflammatory marker called C-Reactive Protein (CRP). Studies have even shown that lowering inflammation can help people recover from depression. Sugar has been proven to stimulate inflammation across the body, elevating CRP levels. For this reason, experts like Amy Jamieson-Petonic, Director of Wellness Coaching at the Cleveland Clinic, recommend avoiding added sugars - which can trigger inflammation in the body so strong, it’s visible on an ultrasound.
We’re not recommending that you cut out all sugar completely, but it’s no secret we advocate limiting the consumption of added sugar across the board. After all, it’s not making you any happier. With sugar lurking in 84% of packaged foods at the grocery store, we’re now consuming more sugar than ever before in human history, and our bodies aren’t equipped to process sugars at the quantities it’s being ingested. We hope that increased awareness of the dangers of sugar consumption, both on the body and the mind, will help consumers make well-informed decisions that nurture their health.
We are not medical doctors and cannot give medical advice. As always, we suggest consulting your doctor if you have any questions regarding your stevia consumption and any affects it may have on any pre-existing conditions.