Sugar and Depression…They’re Linked and Now You Can Calculate Your Intake to Gauge your Risk

I know this makes me sound like a super-geek, but I often read old medical journals because I think that looking back can help us to see forward.

I came across a perfect example of this a few days ago when I read an article from 1940 that described how administering an insulin injection to a healthy person can result in a “mood of anxious depression.”

The idea that insulin could affect one’s mood immediately made me think of a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, they found that postmenopausal women consuming 80 grams of added sugars per day were significantly more likely to suffer from depression, compared to women consuming only 18 grams per day.

Lo and behold, they attributed these depressive symptoms to the spike in insulin that results from excessive sugar intakes. The way I see it, the two articles mirror each other and are both pointing to the fact that an insulin spike produces a drastic decline in blood sugar, which then causes the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause feelings of anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, this means there’s another reason to watch your sugar intake. Because sugar may not only contribute to excess weight gain, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sugar could also have a detrimental effect on the state of our minds.


So what does this mean for YOU?

Well…what we learn from this study is that as little as 80 grams of added sugars could increase risk for depression in certain populations. But what does 80 grams look like? And how do you know if your intake is in that ball park?

Until recently, it was nearly impossible for the average person to calculate their added sugar intake. However, with the release of “One Sweet App”, calculating your free sugar intake (note: free sugar is a slightly more encompassing designation than added sugars) is easier than ever.


By entering your daily food choices, the app allows you to calculate your intake and assess your levels according to current recommendations. It’s easy, it’s free, and it can be downloaded here:


Scientific Note:

The AJCN study looked beyond sugar and also showed that high-glycemic index carbs in general are associated with depression. Hence, not only sugar, but also a diet high in white bread, white rice etc. could increase risk for depression.


Random Food Fact #131 – LESS FAT doesn’t always mean MORE SUGAR…

Ask any nutritionist and they’ll tell you…

be careful when buying low fat products, they often contain more sugar

While this is in fact true in many instances, every rule has exceptions. Consider Chapman’s Ice Cream. Like most brands, Chapman’s has a “Premium” full fat version and a “96% fat-free version”…
Chapmans Ice CreamWhile the 97% fat-free claim seems like a too good to be true fallacy, take a closer look at their Nutrition Facts tables…Chapmans Ice Cream NFtNot only does the “96% fat-free version” contain substantially less fat ( only 2.5 grams of fat versus 6 grams in the “Premium” variety), it compensates for the lack of fat with a negligible one additional gram of sugar (containing 15 grams, versus 14 grams in the “Premium” version).

What we learn from this example is that there are few “rules of thumb” that hold true in all circumstances, not only in nutrition, but in life in general. The moral of the story is…you have to read the label.

I learned about this fact from: a trip to the grocery store. Don’t ask me why I was spending so much time in the ice cream aisle 😉

RFF#112 – Sugar may increase kids’ future risk of heart disease

While we’ve traditionally viewed sugar as a risk factor for obesity and cavities, new research suggests that even in children, added sugars (sugars that are not naturally occurring in a food) are associated with increased blood pressure and increased triglycerides.

Thus, eating sugar can increase kids’ future risk for heart disease!

I learned about this fact from: Kell et al, 2014. Added sugars in the diet are positively associated with diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides in children. American Journal of Clincal Nutrition, 100(1):46-52.

RFF#89 – There are 309 different names for sugar on food labels

  1. Agave nectar (Often with HFCS)
  2. Agave syrup (Often with HFCS
  3. All natural evaporated cane juice
  4. Amasake
  5. Amber liquid sugar
  6. Anhydrous dextrose
  7. Apple butter (Usually with HFCS)
  8. Apple fructose
  9. Apple sugar
  10. Apple syrup
  11. Arenga sugar
  12. Azucar morena
  13. Bakers special sugar
  14. Barbados Sugar
  15. Barley malt
  16. Barley malt syrup
  17. Bar sugar
  18. Berry Sugar
  19. Beet molasses
  20. Beet sugar
  21. Beet sugar molasses
  22. Beet syrup
  23. Birch syrup
  24. Blackstrap molasses
  25. Blonde coconut sugar
  26. Brown rice syrup
  27. Brown rice malt
  28. Brown sugar
  29. BRS
  30. Buttered syrup
  31. Candy floss
  32. Candy syrup
  33. Candi syrup
  34. Cane crystals
  35. Cane juice
  36. Cane juice crystals
  37. Cane juice powder
  38. Cane sugar
  39. Caramel
  40. Carob syrup
  41. Caster sugar
  42. Castorsugar
  43. Cellobiose
  44. Chicory (HFCS)
  45. Coarse sugar
  46. Coconut crystals
  47. Coconut nectar
  48. Coconut palm sugar
  49. Coconut sap sugar
  50. Coconut sugar
  51. Coconut syrup
  52. Coco sugar
  53. Coco sap sugar
  54. Concentrate juice (Often with HFCS)
  55. Concord grape juice concentrate (Often with HFCS)
  56. Confectioner’s sugar
  57. Corn sugar (HFCS)
  58. Corn syrup (may contain some HFCS)
  59. Corn syrup powder (may contain some HFCS)
  60. Corn syrup solids (may contain some HFCS)
  61. Corn sweetener (HFCS)
  62. Cornsweet 90 ® (really HFCS 90)
  63. Creamed honey (Often with HFCS)
  64. Crystal dextrose
  65. Crystalline fructose
  66. Crystallized organic cane juice
  67. Crystal sugar
  68. D-arabino-hexulose
  69. Dark brown sugar
  70. Dark molasses
  71. Date sap
  72. Date sugar
  73. Decorating sugar
  74. Dehydrated sugar cane juice
  75. Demerara sugar
  76. Demerara light sugar
  77. Dextrin
  78. Dextran
  79. Dextrose
  80. D-fructose
  81. D-fructofuranose
  82. D-glucose
  83. Diastatic malt
  84. Diatase
  85. Disaccharide
  86. Dixie crystals
  87. D-mannose
  88. Dried corn syrup
  89. Dried evaporated organic cane juice
  90. D-xylose
  91. ECJ
  92. Evaporated cane juice
  93. Evaporated organic cane juice
  94. Evaporated corn sweetener (HFCS)
  95. Ethyl maltol
  96. First molasses
  97. Florida Crystals
  98. Free Flowing
  99. Free flowing brown sugar
  100. Fructamyl
  101. Fructosan (may contain HFCS)
  102. Fructose (HFCS)
  103. Fructose crystals (HFCS)
  104. Fructose sweetener (HFCS)
  105. Fruit fructose (HFCS)
  106. Fruit juice (Often with HFCS)
  107. Fruit juice concentrate (Often with HFCS)
  108. Fruit sugar (Often with HFCS)
  109. Fruit syrup (Often with HFCS)
  110. Galactose
  111. Glucodry
  112. Glucomalt
  113. Glucoplus
  114. Glucose
  115. Glucose-fructose syrup (HFCS)
  116. Glucose solids
  117. Glucose syrup
  118. Glucosweet
  119. Gluctose fructose (HFCS)
  120. Golden molasses
  121. Golden sugar
  122. Golden syrup (GMO beet)
  123. Gomme syrup
  124. Granulated coconut nectar
  125. Granulated coconut sugar
  126. Granulated fructose
  127. Granulated sugar
  128. Granulated sugar cane juice
  129. Granulized cane sugar
  130. Grape sugar
  131. Grape juice concentrate (Often with HFCS)
  132. Gur
  133. HFCS
  134. HFCS 42
  135. HFCS 55
  136. HFCS 90
  137. High dextrose glucose syrup
  138. High-fructose corn syrup
  139. High fructose maize syrup (HFCS)
  140. High maltose corn syrup (Often with HFCS)
  141. Hydrogenated starch
  142. Hydrogenated starch hydrosylate
  143. Hydrolyzed corn starch (Often with HFCS)
  144. Honey
  145. Honey comb
  146. Honey powder
  147. HSH
  148. Icing sugar
  149. Inulin (HFCS)
  150. Invert sugar
  151. Inverted sugar
  152. Inverted sugar syrup
  153. Invert syrup
  154. Icing sugar
  155. Isoglucose (HFCS)
  156. Isomalt
  157. Isomaltotriose
  158. Isosweet
  159. Jaggery
  160. Jaggery powder
  161. Lactitol
  162. Lactose
  163. Levulose
  164. Lesys
  165. Light brown sugar
  166. Light molasses
  167. Liquid dextrose
  168. Liquid fructose (Often with HFCS)
  169. Liquid fructose syrup (Often with HFCS)
  170. Liquid honey (Often with HFCS)
  171. Liquid maltodextrin
  172. Liquid sucrose
  173. Liquid sugar
  174. Maize sugar
  175. Maize syrup (HFCS)
  176. Maldex
  177. Maldexel
  178. Malt
  179. Malted barley syrup HFCS)
  180. Malted corn syrup (HFCS)
  181. Malted corn and barley syrup (HFCS
  182. Malted barley
  183. Maltitol
  184. Maltitol syrup
  185. Malitsorb
  186. Maltisweet
  187. Maltodextrin
  188. Maltose
  189. Maltotetraitol
  190. Maltotriitol
  191. Maltotriose
  192. Maltotriulose
  193. Malt syrup
  194. Mannitol
  195. Maple Sugar
  196. Maple syrup (Sometimes with HFCS)
  197. Meritose
  198. Meritab 700
  199. Milk sugar
  200. Misri
  201. Mizuame
  202. Molasses
  203. Molasses sugar
  204. Monosaccharide
  205. Morena
  206. Muscovado sugar
  207. Mycose
  208. Mylose
  209. Nigerotriose
  210. Nipa sap
  211. Nipa syrup
  212. Oligosaccharide
  213. Organic Agave
  214. Organic agave syrup
  215. Organic brown rice syrup
  216. Organic cane juice crystals
  217. Organic coconut crystals
  218. Organic coconut nectar
  219. Organic coconut sugar
  220. Organic coconut palm sugar
  221. Organic granulated coconut sugar
  222. Organic maple syrup
  223. Organic palm sugar
  224. Organic rice syrup
  225. Organic sucanat
  226. Organic sugar
  227. Organic raw sugar
  228. Orgeat syrup
  229. Palm sap
  230. Palm sugar
  231. Palm syrup
  232. Panela
  233. Pancake syrup (Often with HFCS)
  234. Panocha
  235. Pearl sugar
  236. Piloncillo
  237. Potato maltodextrine
  238. Potato syrup
  239. Powdered sugar
  240. Promitor
  241. Pure fructose crystals (HFCS)
  242. Pure cane syrup
  243. Pure sugar spun
  244. Raisin syrup
  245. Rapadura
  246. Raw agave syrup
  247. Raw sugar
  248. Raffinose
  249. Refiner’s syrup (Often with HFCS)
  250. Rice bran syrup
  251. Rice malt
  252. Rice maltodextrine
  253. Rice malt syrup
  254. Rice syrup
  255. Rice syrup solids
  256. Raw honey
  257. Rock sugar
  258. Saccharose
  259. Sanding sugar
  260. Second molasses
  261. Shakar
  262. Simple syrup (Often with HFCS)
  263. Sirodex
  264. Soluble corn fiber
  265. Sorbitol
  266. Sorbitol syrup
  267. Sorghum
  268. Sorghum molasses
  269. Sorghum syrup
  270. Sucanat
  271. Sucre de canne naturel
  272. Sucrose
  273. Sucrosweet
  274. Sugar
  275. Sugar beet syrup
  276. Sugar beet crystals
  277. Sugar beet molasses
  278. Sugar cane juice
  279. Sugar cane natural
  280. Sugar glass
  281. Sugar hat
  282. Sugar pine
  283. Sulfured molasses
  284. Sweetened condensed milk (Often with HFCS)
  285. Sweet sorghum syrup
  286. Syrup Syrup
  287. Table sugar
  288. Taffy
  289. Tagatose
  290. Tapioca syrup
  291. Toddy
  292. Treacle
  293. Trehalose
  294. Tremalose
  295. Trimoline
  296. Triose
  297. Trisaccharides
  298. Turbinado sugar
  299. Unrefined sugar
  300. Unsulphured  molasses
  301. Wheat syrup
  302. White crystal sugar
  303. White grape juice concentrate (Often with HFCS)
  304. White refined sugar
  305. White sugar
  306. Wood sugar
  307. Xylose
  308. Yacon syrup
  309. Yellow sugar

I have to admit, I can’t take credit for this this list. I heard Dr. Mark Hyman mention that there are 257 different kinds of sugar on the Katie Couric show. After tracking down the reference, I learned that Jeremy Godwin of “Single Man’s Kitchen” is the genius behind this exhaustive list. Thanks Jeremy!

RFF#86 – Sugar was one of the first foods to be rationed during WWII

In 1942, sugar was rationed because the cargo ships that imported sugar were needed in the war effort. I just love these old FDA posters…

FDA Ad, circa 1917 Sugar Rations

I learned about this fact from: The US Library of Congress

Photo credits: and

RFF#82 – Currently the Institute of Medicine (and Health Canada) recommend that no more than 25% of total calories should come from sugar

And today, the WHO recommended that sugar consumption should be limited to less than 5% of total calories. I’ve been looking forward to the day when someone would officially challenge the outrageous recommendation that a quarter of your calories can come from sugar. Luckily, that day is finally here.

Health Canada’s current sugar recommendations can be found here.

I learned about this fact from: Health Canada’s Dietary Reference Intake Tables and

RFF#50 – Aspartame was discovered when a chemist accidentally licked his finger and realized the compound he spilled on it tasted sweet

It’s true! In 1965, a chemist by the name of G.D. Searle was experimenting with drugs to treat gastric uclers. As the story goes, one of the intermediate compounds he created got on his hand…he accidentally licked his finger…and with that, the first FDA approved artificial sweetener was discovered.

I learned about this fact from: Whitehouse CR, Boullata J, McCauley LA. 2008. The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweeteners. AAOHN, 56(6)251-259.