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Study Finds Link Between Sugar and Common Mental Disorders

Dentists have warned of sugar's adverse impact on oral and general health for years, but they can now add another negative side effect to the list. A new study suggests that high sugar consumption is linked to common mental disorders, specifically depression. Continue below to find out more about the study.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
PUBLISHED: Thursday, September 7, 2017

Participants with previously diagnosed mood disorders and high sugar intake are at an increased risk of developing depression.

Scientists are now finding that it’s more than just your teeth that are affected by sugar — your mental health could be, too.

In a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers examined the relationship between the consumption of sweet foods and beverages and common mental disorders (CMDs), including depression. The goal of the study was to examine any links between sugar intake and new or recurrent mood disorders.

Researchers also hoped to find whether having a mood disorder made a person more likely to choose food and drinks sweetened with sugar.

Dentist’s Money Digest has reported previously on excessive sugar consumption and its effect on the teeth and gums of both adults and children nationwide. Even as Americans consume more sugar than ever in processed foods, sweet treats, and sugary beverages, organizations around the globe, including the World Health Organization, have continued to push for legislation taxing sugary drinks at higher rates in attempts to curb the negative side effects of too much sugar consumption.

Using food-frequency questionnaires, scientists measured study participants’ intake of 15 common food and beverage items containing sugar, including cakes and sugar added to coffee or tea. Each participant’s sugar intake total was then calculated by multiplying sugar consumption frequencies each day by the item’s sugar content and portion size. Scientists also used two separate health questionnaires to measure depressive symptoms over the course of two weeks.

The results of the study indicated that men with no previously diagnosed mood disorder who consumed over 67 grams of sugar each day were at 23 percent greater risk of developing a mood disorder like depression after five years. However, no relationship between sugar and common mental disorders could be identified in women who participated in the study.

It was also shown that both men and women with previously diagnosed mood disorders and a higher level of daily sugar intake were at a greater risk of developing depression after five years, compared to people who typically consumed less sugar. Factors like socioeconomic status, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep patterns, and overall physical health were accounted for but did not affect the results of the study.

Even though the results seemed to indicate a link between sugar consumption and common mental disorders, the study authors note that further research is needed to determine a definitive link between the two. However, it is certain that excessive sugar consumption can lead to many different health problems, from tooth decay to diabetes.

What is not up for debate, however, is that cutting down on sugar is still a good idea.

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