New Study: How Sugar Harms Your Mental Well-Being
The health effects of too much sugar in the diet have been well established and well known for many years now. However, years ago it seemed the only worry was about sugar rotting your teeth. Not that that isn’t a serious condition, but it pales in comparison to the long-term impact of diseases like diabetes and obesity, which have been linked more comparatively recently. And now new research suggests that sugar can affect your mental health as well – even in diseases such as depression and schizophrenia.
Among all the negative physical effects of sugar, we also now know that sugar is actually addictive. It can amp you up, just shortly before it causes you to crash, which in turn causes you to physically crave more sugar.
Needless to say, the reasons for moderating sugar intake are more than plentiful enough.
Now there is another: serious mental illness. Malcom Peet, the well known British psychiatric researcher, had reported results of a cross-cultural analysis of the links between diet (and sugar intake) and the presence of mental illness. Chief among the findings was that there is a strong association between the amount of sugar that is consumed and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia.
The findings point to at least two ways in which consumption of refined sugar can have a negative effect on mental health: inflammation and suppression of a key hormone. Sugar consumption promotes inflammation throughout the body. Over the long run, chronic inflammation degrades the body’s immune system, which can have numerous negative effects on the brain, some of which are connected with a heightened risk of depression and schizophrenia.
The growth hormone in question is BDNF. Sugar consumption suppresses the activity of this hormone, and very low levels of the hormone are found in patients with schizophrenia and depression.
There are reasons aplenty to avoid the consumption of refined sugar. Evolutionarily speaking, we were given a taste for the substance as way of encouraging consumption of highly nutritious fruits. However, the sugars found in fruits are naturally occurring, which are quite different from refine sugar. Our bodies were not built to effectively process refined sugar; their presence on the menu is a relatively recent development. As such, it makes sense that our bodies are not optimized to make good use of them, and that over consumption of them can cause you harm.
So all the usual admonitions continue to pertain; limit your intake of refined sugars. You will experience lower risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and many more dangerous physical conditions. And you are more likely to stave off certain mental disorders as well.