The sugar and depression connection is a very real issue that has become quite prevalent over the last several years. There have many studies done on this phenomenon, researchers have found that consuming too much sugar can trigger numerous inflammatory, metabolic, and neurobiological processes linked to depression. (1)
Inflammation is a critical physiological effect of dietary sugar intake. As we have addressed in numerous articles, added sugars have a profound effect on inflammatory processes within the body and brain. This inflammation serves as a key mediator of sugar-induced depression. Your consumption of sugar only serves to increase your risk for depression, mood disorders, and several chronic health issues. Would it surprise you to learn that researchers are so confident that depression can be linked to sugar intake that they’ve studied using insulin to treat it? (2)
Those baked goods that bring you enjoyment are also bringing you down.
We can all agree that muffins, croissants, pastries, and other commercially prepared baked goods taste good. That is a given. But the fact they may also trigger depression is something you had really need to consider if you suffer from depression. You have to ask yourself is the momentary joy that comes from the endorphin release caused by sugar really worth depression later? Is a regular morning double chocolate chip muffin worth the following symptoms of depression?
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Why do we crave sugary foods if it can lead to depression?
If the sugar and depression connection issue is real, why is it so hard to kick sugar?
- A diet high in sugars has been linked to cognitive impairments, negative neuroplasticity and emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.
- Sugar consumption increases the impulsivity to feed.
- Sugar overconsumption leads to changes in neurobiological brain function which alter emotional states and subsequent behaviors.
- Addiction, stress, fear, anxiety and depression involve overlapping neural mechanisms.
Neural plasticity that occurs as a result of long term sugar consumption has been shown to reduce impulse control and therefore lower the ability to resist the high fat/sugar foods. Your food craving is not just a matter of being weak. It is a biological effect in your body which no amount of willpower can make go away.
Our food cravings involve serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter needed for mood regulation. An imbalance of serotonin in the brain is known to contribute to the development of depression. This is why you’re usually being drawn to foods that encourage serotonin production when you’re craving carbs.
Although you might not realize it, when you are munching down sweet treats to quell a craving, you are actually self medicating. If you are one who likes to munch on candies all the time, your carb cravings will be strong as these cause a higher peak in blood sugar levels. As long as you consume sugar, this will never end for you. This is one of many reasons we recommend that you quit eating sugar altogether my friends.
Those delicious morsels of sweet treats you eat cause inflammation!
Inflammation is often triggered as a way to protect your health. It occurs when the immune system notices anything foreign in the body. While intermittent inflammation can be protective, chronic inflammation has been linked to many serious illnesses.
If you want to battle inflammation, start by taking a look in your kitchen. And when you make your grocery list, add less inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds and fatty fish. (3)
Would you like to break your addiction to sugar?
We all know that sugar is everywhere. We commonly find it in drinks and sauces to soups and sandwiches. But, you should look for other places sugar hides in your daily diet. Some might recommend that you create strategies to slowly cut back. But I recommend you just quit it altogether with the knowledge that your palate will adjust, and you won’t need sugar to be satisfied. If you still want something sweet, there are good alternatives available that are calorie free and very low on the glycemic index. Erythritol is my favorite, but you might prefer a product such as Splenda.
Now that you know about the sugar and depression connection, you should think long and hard about your food choices. Especially if you are prone to depression. It could very well be what you are eating that brings you down.