Lowering consumption of sugary sweets may alleviate symptoms of holiday blues

3 min read

For some, the holidays are a not so joyful time of the year, paving the way for seasonal depressive symptoms. In a new study, released online in the journal Medical Hypotheses, a group of researchers all gathered together and investigated the effects of high-dose sugar intake.

According to researchers, lowering high-dose sugar intake may alleviate symptoms of holiday blues.

“Added sugars are ubiquitous in contemporary Western diets. Although excessive sugar consumption is now robustly associated with an array of adverse health consequences, comparatively little research has thus far addressed its impact on the risk of mental illness,” said Michael Namekata, co-author of the study.

“But ample evidence suggests that high-dose sugar intake can perturb numerous metabolic, inflammatory, and neurobiological processes.”

For the study, the group turned to previous research on physiological and psychological effects of sugar consumption. Past studies, like the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, analyzed how added sugar intake may increase the risk of exhibiting depressive symptoms.

By the study’s conclusion, researchers noticed that depressive symptoms were likely the result of inflammation from excessive sugar consumption.

“A large subset of people with depression have high levels of systemic inflammation,” wrote Stephen Ilardi, an additional co-author of the study.

“When we think about inflammatory disease we think about things like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis – diseases with a high level of systemic inflammation. We don’t normally think about depression being in that category, but it turns out that it really is – not for everyone who’s depressed, but for about half.”

“We also know that inflammatory hormones can directly push the brain into a state of severe depression. So, an inflamed brain is typically a depressed brain. And added sugars have a pro-inflammatory effect on the body and brain.”

Despite the findings, more research is needed to probe the connection between sugar consumption and depressive symptoms.

“Educational and behavioral interventions (e.g., substituting water for sodas) have been shown to successfully reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages in both children and adults, as have public policy strategies such as targeted sugary beverage taxation,” researchers proclaim. “However, the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of such strategies remain largely unknown, as do their potential protective benefit vis-à-vis depressive illness.”

“Much more extensive investigation will be necessary, of course, to fully elucidate the sweetener’s hypothesized depressogenic potential in humans,” the study concluded.

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