Could sugar be feeding your depression?

It's highly addictive and wreaks havoc on our bodies. We all know too well that sugar is a bad guy. It can affect our teeth, our weight, the clarity of our skin and many other aspects of our health. But could we go so far as to say that its impact reaches beyond our physical health, and negatively affects our mental health? Some scientists believe this could be the case.

New research on sugar & Mental Health

Recently, a study by Knuppel, Shipley, Llewellyn, and Brunner (2017) was published which may offer more insight into this topic. This research built on a previous study which began in 1985 where the participants were followed-up in phases every few years. In the most recent study they monitored and surveyed over 8,000 participants, most of whom were men (Patel, 2017). What they found was that men who consumed large amounts of sugar had an increased risk (23%) of common mental health disorders (such as anxiety and depression), after five years (Knuppel et al., 2017). These results remained true after adjusting for "health behaviours, socio-demographic and diet related factors" (Knuppel et al., 2017).

Do I have to stop eating sugar?!

Not so fast! As with all research, there are always limitations to be cautious of. Firstly, the use of self-report questionnaires always carry with them a bias because they are subjective measures. Next, as the researchers themselves pointed out, the nutrition of the food was characterized by food tables from 1991 (Knuppel et al., 2017), and since that time many changes have been made to our understanding of food nutrition information. In addition there are also other confounding factors such as possible dropout of the study due to depressive symptoms of the participants. As such, the results must be approached with caution.

The sweet middle ground

Abby Langer, a registered dietician from Toronto reported to Global News that instead of focusing so much on reducing sugar intake, it would be best to channel our efforts towards eating more fruits, vegetables and whole foods (Patel, 2017). By adding in more of the good stuff to satisfy our appetites, there will be less time for unhealthy snacking!

Do you find that there is there a connection between what you eat and how you feel? Do you try to limit your sugar consumption? Have any tips for healthy snacking at work? Share with us in the comments!

Looking for more information about healthy food for a healthy brain? Check out our previous posts here


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Knuppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific Reports, 7. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7

Patel, A. (2017). Reality check: Does too much sugar lead to depression? Retrieved from