In the study, researchers analysed food consumption data from over 7,000 people and followed them up for 22 years to see how many developed a mood disorder like depression or anxiety during that time. They discovered that men who took in the most sugar from sweet foods and beverages—67 grams or more a day—were 23 per cent more likely to develop a mental health condition than those who took in less than 39.5g.
There are a number of ways sugar can mess with your mind. For one, high sugar intake could reduce your levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps the growth and development of your brain cells. It may also spark inflammation, which has been linked to a depressed mood. High-sugar diets can also mess with your insulin response after eating, which can tank your hormones and your mood.
This study falls in line with previous research that has linked sugar to mood problems, but took them one step further. That’s because this study accounted for something called reverse causation – which, in this instance, refers to the possibility that people who have mood disorders may simply be more likely to choose high-sugar foods. But the current research took this into account, and was able to exclude that as a possibility.
“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,” study author Dr Anika Knüppel.
It’s not clear from the study whether reducing your sugar consumption can help improve symptoms of a poor mood — and if you are suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, a doctor visit should still be your first course of action.
But if you want to guard against the Big D, it can’t hurt to limit your added sugar. Aim to hit the dietary guideline max of no more than 10 per cent of your calories a day — so no more than 200 calories, or 50 grams, from the added stuff.
This story was originally published on Menshealth.com