Too much sugar could increase depression risk in men, study indicates

Researchers say they have found a strong association between eating higher levels of sugar and depression in humen a connect not mirrored in women

Men who ingest a lot of added sugar in drinkings, cakes and confectionery run an increased risk of depression, according to a new study.

Researchers from University College London( UCL) looked at sugar in the diet and common mental health problems in a very large cohort of five, 000 men and 2,000 females recruited for the Whitehall II study in the 1980 s.

They discovered a strong association between consuming higher levels of sugar and depression in men. Men with the highest intake more than 67 g a day had a 23% increased opportunity of suffering a common mental disturbance after five years than those who consumed the lowest levels of sugar less than 39.5 g.

The researchers investigated whether humen might be eating more sugary foods because they were depressed, but found that was not the case.

Lead author Anika Knppel, of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said: 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 ailments, in particular among men. There are numerous factors that influence chances for mood disorders, but having a diet high in sugary foods and drinkings might be the straw that transgresses the camels back.

The study procured 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 impact in big population samples.

There is increasing evidence for the physical damage sugar has on our health. Our run indicates an additional mental health effect. This further supports the evidence for policy action such as the new sugar levy in the UK, but this is not addressed in many other European countries.

The paper, published in the publication Scientific Reports, is not the first to suggest the link. Knppel said there had been at least three previous pieces of research that supported their findings.

Peoples sugar intake and their mental health were measured through questionnaires. One of the problems with dietary studies is that people tend not to tell the whole truth about what they eat. But, she said, it is quite unlikely that people over-report what they feed. So if something, they would be seeing less of an effect that there really is.

The results in humen were very strong, but were not as strong in girls. One of the reasons why could be that females are under-represented in the study, which recruited civil servants in the 1980 s. But national dietary surveys also suggest that humen consume more sugar than girls do, in spite of the popular hypothesis about Bridget Jones sitting there with her ice-cream pail, said Knppel.

Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at UCL, said: This study is important because it is the first to be able to show that an increase in hazard of about a quarter in common mental disturbance mostly mild nervousnes and depression in all those people who eat the most sugar cannot be explained by those who were already anxious or depressed use sugar as a form of consolation. But the association was complicated and further studies would be needed, he added.

Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, had reservations, pointing out a large number of factors that could influence the result, including low socioeconomic status, smoking habits and obesity. The writers had tried to take these into account but, he said, there still is a risk of residual confounding[ factors ].

From a scientific standpoint it is difficult to see how sugar in food would differ from other sources of carbohydrate on mental health, as both are broken down to simple sugars in the gut before absorption and the glycemic index of sugar is less than refined starchy foods such as white bread and rice, he said.

Professor Eric Brunner, also from the UCL Institute and senior author of the paper, said: Our findings provide still further evidence that sugary foods and drinks are best avoided. The new sugar taxation on soft drinks, which will take effect in April 2018, is a move in the right direction. The physical and mental health of British people deserves some protection from the commercial forces-out which exploit the human sweet tooth.

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