Researchers have found that men who consume a lot of products high in added sugars are more likely to develop conditions like anxiety and depression after five years, compared to men with low sugar intake. A similar link was not seen in women, and the data showed that the opposite relationship is not true – people with mental disorders don’t tend to consume more sugary products.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, followed 5,000 men and 2,000 women for a period of 22 years. It showed that men who consume more than 67 grams of sugar have a 23 percent increased chance of poor mental health compared to men that consume less than 39.5 grams. This finding was independent of other factors like health behavior, age, socioeconomic status, etc.
Women who consume a similarly high amount of sugar also had a greater likelihood to eventually suffer from depression, but the researchers weren’t able to prove that for women this was independent of other factors that could contribute to the development of mental health conditions.
“High sugar diets have a number of influences on our health but our study shows that there might also be a link between sugar and mood disorders, particularly among men," lead author Anika Knüppel, from University College London, said in a statement. "There are numerous factors that influence chances for mood disorders, but having a diet high in sugary foods and drinks might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. The study found no link between sugar intake and new mood disorders in women and it is unclear why. More research is needed to test the sugar-depression effect in large population samples.”
This is not the first study to show a link between sugary products and depression. However, this study is one of the first to show that individuals suffering from anxiety or depression don’t tend to consume more sugary goods than people who don’t have a mental health condition.
“Sweet food has been found to induce positive feelings in the short-term," Knüppel added. "People experiencing low mood may eat sugary foods in the hope of alleviating negative feelings. Our study suggests a high intake of sugary foods is more likely to have the opposite effect on mental health in the long-term.”
Adults in the US consume three times the recommended level of added sugar, contributing to ill physical health among a large chunk of the population.