Research highlight

An association between sugar and mental health

Scientific Reports

July 28, 2017

A diet high in sugar found in sweet foods and beverages may be associated with an increased likelihood of common mental disorders (such as anxiety and depression) in men according to a study in Scientific Reports. The authors note that their findings should be replicated in other groups.

Higher levels of sugar consumption have been linked to a higher prevalence of depression in several studies. However, the possibility that a mental health disorder may lead to a higher sugar intake, so that the diet-mental health association is wholly or partly the result of poor mental health, has not been examined.

Anika Knuppel and colleagues analysed repeated data from 8,087 men and women aged between 39 and 83 collected over a 22 year period from the Whitehall II study. Based on information about diet and mental health compiled from questionnaires, the authors found that higher levels of sugar intake had an adverse effect on mental health and in follow up five years later. They also found that men in the top third of the sample for sugar intake had a 23% increased chance of incident common mental disorders after five years, independent of health behaviours, socio-demographic and diet-related factors, adiposity and other diseases. The authors found no support for the hypothesis that those susceptible to depression tend to increase their sugar intake and argue that their findings show an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet foods and beverages on long-term psychological health.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7

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