The sad truth about sugar and depression

Sugar kills — I’ve devoted my life’s work to exposing that fact. But it doesn’t always kill in the ways you might expect, like diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. Sometimes it takes a more roundabout path in damaging your health.

And that’s what I want to talk about today. Not death by sugar — but depression by sugar. (Which, bears repeating, is strongly associated with increased mortality itself.)  

New research shows that sugar can increase your risk of depression significantly over the long-term. This latest study comes out of England, which is currently in the middle of discouraging sugar in an effort to curb skyrocketing obesity rates (a tax on sugary drinks is set to go into effect in the UK next year). This is, in part, due to statistics showing that British adults consume twice the recommended level of added sugar every day. (Though why anyone thinks that the “recommended level” of added sugar should be anything but ZERO is beyond me.)

If the study results are any indicator, sugar addiction is coming at a steep price.

Researchers used data from more than 10,000 UK civil servants. Participants reported eating at least eight sweet foods and drinks out of a list of 15 items — including soda, cookies, cake, and added sugar in beverages like coffee or tea. The researchers divided them up into groups based on gender and total daily intake.

There were three groups of men — those who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar daily, those who consumed between 39.5 and 67 grams, and those who consumed less than 39.5 grams. Among the women, one group consumed more than 51 grams of sugar, another group between 30 and 51 grams, and those who consumed less than 30 grams.

Results showed that after five years, men who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar per day were nearly 25 percent more likely to suffer from common mental health disorders like depression. In case you haven’t already done the math, that’s less sugar than you’d get from two cans of Coke. (So, sadly, not an unusual level of consumption on this side of the pond.)

Interestingly, this study didn’t find the same connection among women. But seeing as how two thirds of the study participants were men, this result could simply be a case of not having enough female subjects to draw data from.

Now, as you might have expected, the backlash has been swift. This study’s conclusions are already being picked to pieces — despite the fact that there’s absolutely nothing surprising about sugar’s links to depression.

It never ceases to amaze me how enraged the powers-that-be can become in situations like this — mobilizing against anyone who dares to take on the sugar industry, or even just challenge unhealthy eating habits.

Study after study has proven that sugar kills — there are many, many sources to support this claim. And I’ve discussed them over and over again here in the Reality Health Check.

And that’s exactly what leaves me with the same question in my mind, every time I report on studies like this: When are we going to take these findings seriously?

It’s time to give some real consideration to how we think of sugar as a society. And not just with regard to how much of it we consume. But how we use this toxic substance to “celebrate” happy moments in our lives: wedding cakes, birthday cakes, holiday cookies, etc. How does that make sense? “Hi, we love you — let’s kill you with this sugar-packed time bomb.”

It’s time we really got down to business, re-evaluate our relationship with sugar, and question WHY our society just accepts this addiction (and its damaging effects) as “the norm.”

We can start by taxing sugar and ostracizing those who eat it, just as we do with cigarettes.

We did it once. It’s time to make America healthy — and happy — again.