September 2, 2014

Feeling Low Or Depressed? Blame Your Sweet Tooth

I’m a total sugar addict. There, I’ve said it.

Which would explain why I've already talked about the evils of sugar before. And, surprise surprise, I have more to say!

If I have sweets, I react like a druggie, and have to eat as many sugary things as I can get my hands on (forget about portion-controlling, give me the whole damn thing!), even long after I enjoy them anymore. Then, as is inevitable, as my insulin levels drop, so does my mood and mental well-being.

According to a research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, those who eat diets high in sugars and refined foods (like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, alcohol, juices, and processed foods) which turn into sugar in our system are 58% more at risk to have depression. On the other hand, those who eat better meals, with more whole foods, were 26% less likely to get depressed.

So what causes this sugar crash? Here are a few hints as to the biology behind this phenomenon which I know doesn’t affect just me...


1. supplies very little nutrients;
2. uses up the mood-enhancing vitamin B;
3. diverts the supply of chromium which is vital in keeping your blood sugar level constant (and thus not getting severe mood swings and other nastinesses) via your insulin;
4. suppresses the activity of the BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor; also known as the brain growth hormone) hormone;
5. is the root of chronic inflammation which:
   a. impacts the brain—the neurotransmitters’ ability to communicate properly is impeded, especially in the hippocampus region which is in charge of memory, mood, etc.
   b. the GI tract (responsible for 80% of your immune system)—sugar feeds harmful gut bacteria (like H. Pylori) that then attacks your gut and allows for harmful toxins and food particles that haven’t been broken down enough to enter your blood stream, and from there the rest of your body.

Lovely, isn’t it?

I know some people very dear to me who’ve been taking antidepressants for years. Unfortunately, that is not the solution. They just provide a temporary patch, without fixing the root cause, and double as very addicting drugs too (which only compounds the problem, methinks).

Of course, sugar is important to our good health as well, but in smaller quantities. One way to resolve the problem is to avoid all processed foods and eat more fibers (like from vegetables and fruit) which reduce the speed at which sugar’s absorbed. Exercise is also important, and so is making sure you have enough vitamins B and D, omega 3 fatty acids, and probiotics in your diet.

America’s Sugar Addiction: How Our Need for A Sweet Fix Has Expanded Our Waistlines

Psychology Today
Depression Anxiety Diet


  1. Yup, this jibes with what my daughter told me - about a half of her patients are overweight, so a quarter being obese is not out of the question. My personal hot buttons are the soft drinks and "snacks". We hosted a Peruvian party yesterday and the two kids went through the entire box of popsicles. I am guilty too - I eat after midnight, but at least I do not consume sugar.

    1. Yes, it's pretty insane how much sugar affects my moods! I actually felt myself sink into depression after the last binge I've had, which was almost 2 months ago. Since then, just remembering how horrible I felt has been incentive enough to keep me away from the sweets.
      I remember seeing a friend of mine calm her kid down by giving him milkshake, and being surprised by it. But apparently it's something done on a regular basis nowadays. Do you think there could be a link with this so-called "ADD/ADHD epidemy" too?

    2. That might be, but I haven't really thought about it. Off the top of my head I would venture a guess that the faster rhythm of life and ubiquitous TV have something to do here, but I might be completely wrong. Since it is an "epidemy", one would think that the environmental factors are more to be blamed, but on the other hand maybe in some perverse way the ADD/ADHD genes are "stronger" and win against the plain genes. Oh come on, I may pretend I know about physics; I will not pretend I know anything about this :)

    3. Yeah, neither will I. On both counts :)

  2. Totally, absolutely off-topic. I am re-reading one of favorite mysteries from my youth: Nicolas Freeling's 'Gun before Butter' (1963). Mr. Freeling is British but inspector Van der Valk is Dutch. The plot of the novel happens in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. It is a truly European novel, and the author writes so fabulously acutely about the three countries. I will soon post a review on Goddreads, but I recommend the book to all Beneluxers :)

    1. Alrighty! I've added it to my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation! :) I'd read a book that was more police procedural/thriller (a la Training Day), but it was in Dutch...
      Btw, do you read in French too?

  3. Alas, je ne parle pas français du tout. Bozena does, though. She even published a small book on French grammar in Poland. I recommend Nicolas Freeling in general - a great writer. Some dialogues in his books are partly in French or Italian. He used to live near Strasbourg and was a model European, speaking fluent English, French, Dutch, and Italian. He would be happy with the current shape of EU. I will reply to your new post, but not before Friday.

    1. Ah, I knew she did, since she highly recommended Amelie Nothomb, and I know you've spoken to me about her quite a bit too. But I couldn't remember if you'd read her work in French of English.

      Good to know, thank you!