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.

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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.

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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: http://sugarcoateddoc.com/the-app/

 

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.

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RFF#51 – The Glycemic Index of a food can vary depending on the ethnicity of the person digesting it

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), it’s basically a measure of the ability of a food to raise your blood sugar. A food with a high GI causes a rapid increase in blood sugar (this is bad), while a food with a low GI increases blood sugar more gradually (this is desirable).

For years, it was assumed that the GI of a food is universal, however, research has shown that this is not the case. A study comparing the glycemic response elicited in Asians versus Caucasians, showed that the GI of a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal was 77 in Asians, while it was only 61 in Caucasians. So basically, the exact same food caused a larger spike in blood sugar in the Asians compared to the Caucasians. Researchers have speculated that this may arise from differences in starch digestion amongst ethnic groups. Nevertheless, regardless of the mechanism, it’s always interesting to see how the exact same food can affect different people in different ways.

I learned about this fact from: Venn BS, Williams SM, Mann JI. Comparison of postprandial glycaemia in Asians and Caucasians. Diabet Med 2010;27:1205-8.

RFF#31 – The glycemic index of pasta varies depending on the shape

First, for anyone doesn’t already know, glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food is digested and absorbed.

Ideally you want a food to be:

1) slowly digested (so it stays in your stomach longer, keeping you full for longer), and

2) slowly absorbed (so all of its energy doesn’t rush into your bloodstream which causes a hormonal imbalance [too much insulin] and increases the likelihood that the energy will be stored as fat)

Therefore, foods with a low GI (think low=slow) are better than foods with a high GI.

So, which shape is best? Well, it all has to do with the density and surface area of the pasta. Meaning thick and dense pastas, like rotini and gemelli will have a lower GI compared to pastas with a large surface area, like orzo and fettuccine.

But, in addition to the shape, the way in which the pasta was cooked will also influence the GI. More on that in tomorrow’s post…

A selection of pasta at "Campo di Fiori" in Rome

A selection of pasta at “Campo di Fiori” in Rome