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Why diet and other sugary drinks might not be good for mental health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Diet soda and other beverages might contribute to depression.

It isn't any secret that food and beverages can help boost our mood while others can make us feel poorly and even depressed. Results of a new study show sweetened beverages, and especially diet drinks might raise the chances of depression.

The study that was led by Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, with the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina looked at depression rates and soda and sweetened fruit drink consumption among 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71.

Drinking 4 cans or cups per day of soda was linked to a 30 percent higher chance of depression, the researchers found. Diet soda, tea and fruit punches put people at higher risk, compared to drinking non-diet drinks or none.

Sweetened fruit drinks boosted the chance of depression to 38 percent.

Coffee a better choice?

Researchers focused on coffee, tea, soda and fruit drinks and how they might affect mental health because they are the most widely consumed beverages worldwide.

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The researchers looked at how many drinks study participants consumed from 1995 to 1996 and then questioned participants 10 years later to find out how many had been diagnosed with depression. Among the group, 11,311 had been diagnosed with the mental health problem.

But people who drank coffee with no sweetener - four cups a day or more - seemed to be protected from depression. They had a 10 percent lower chance of being diagnosed compared to people who drank no coffee.

Chen says more studies are needed to prove sweetened drinks and depression is linked. The authors concluded is might be better to switch to drinking coffee to help curb depression.

Coffee has also been shown to possibly help prevent Alzheimer's disease because of anti-inflammatory properties.

Another recent study linked higher risk of depression with inflammation, which could help explain the finding.

The study doesn't prove diet and other sweetened beverages cause depression, but it does show there seems to be an association. If you're feeling blue or down in the dumps, consider limiting sweetened drinks. Other ways to ensure optimal mental health include regular physical activity and consuming a diet rich in antioxidants.

American Academy of Neurology
January 8, 2013

Image credit: Morguefile