Too much sugar could increase depression risk in men

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MEN who consume a lot of added sugar in drinks, 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 5,000 men and 2,000 women recruited for the Whitehall II study in the 1980s.
They found a strong association between consuming higher levels of sugar and depression in men. Men with the highest intake – more than 67g a day – had a 23% increased chance of suffering a common mental disorder after five years than those who consumed the lowest levels of sugar – less than 39.5g.
The researchers investigated whether men might be eating more sugary foods because they were depressed, but found that was not the case.
Lead author Anika Knüppel, 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 disorders, particularly among men. 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.
“There is increasing evidence for the physical damage sugar has on our health. Our work suggests 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 journal Scientific Reports, is not the first to suggest the link. Knüppel said there had been at least three previous pieces of research that supported their findings. People’s 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 eat.” So if anything, they would be seeing less of an effect that there really is.
The results in men were very strong, but were not as strong in women.