Sugar consumption from sweetened beverages and foods is associated with an increased risk of mood disorders, researchers reported in Scientific Reports.
Anika Knüppel, from University College London, and colleagues sought to investigate systematically cross-sectional and prospective associations between sweetened food and beverage consumption, common mental disorders, and depression.
The analysis is based on 23,245 person-observations in men and women aged 39 to 83 years from the Whitehall II study. Diet was assessed using food frequency questionnaires, and mood was evaluated using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and the Revised Clinical Interview Schedule (CIS-R).
Cross-sectional analyses revealed strong positive associations between sugar intake from sweetened food and beverages and common mental disorders on the GHQ and CES-D caseness, after adjustment for age, sex, and ethnicity.
In the prospective analyses, men in the highest tertile of sugar consumption (more than 67 g/day) from sweetened food and beverages had a 23% increased odds of incident common mental disorders after 5 years, compared with those who consumed less than 40 g/day of sugar. The effect was independent of the men’s socioeconomic status, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking, other eating habits, body fat, and physical health.
In addition, the odds of recurrent depression were increased in the highest tertile for men and women but were not statistically significant when diet-related factors were included in the model (odds ratio, 1.47). Furthermore, the investigators found no evidence for a potential reverse effect, as participants did not change their sugar intake after developing a mood disorder.
“Our research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health,” stated the researchers.
“In our study we were able to exclude potential ‘reverse causation’ as the reason for the observed link between high sugar intake and low mood,” the authors concluded. “Over years and decades, it could be that those susceptible to depression tend to increase their sugar intake.”
- Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017;7:6287. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7