How Sugar Addiction Harms Men’s Mental Health: From Depression to Anxiety Symptoms

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Men with a sweet tooth may be putting themselves at greater risk for issues such as depression and anxiety, a new study suggests. The recent found a link between increased sugar intake in men and more incidences of depression, giving us yet another reason to steer clear of the dessert table.

The study found that men who ate 67 grams a day of sugar had a 23 percent increased chance of experiencing a common mental health disorder, after five years, compared to men who consumed the least amount of sugar, The Guardian reported. This correlation still existed even after the researchers accounted for variables such as outside health behaviors, socio-demographic and diet-related factors, obesity, and other diseases.

Read: Sugar Addiction Doesn't Just Lead To Obesity; It Affects Your Heart Health, Brain Function, And Even Your Sex Life

These results are based on the diet and health records of 7,000 participants over the course of 22 years.

In an interesting twist, the study found no link between increased sugar intake and higher incidence of mental health disorders in women. In addition, while it's not clear exactly why the correlation between increased sugar intake in men and depression exists, the researchers are confident that men didn't consume more sugar when depressed. Rather, it was the other way around, and high sugar intake seemed to be the “straw that broke the camel's back,” among other risk factors that led to mood disorders in men, study researcher Anika Knüppel explained to The Guardian.

“This study is important because it is the first to be able to show that an increase in risk of about a quarter in common mental disorders – mostly mild anxiety and depression – in men who eat the most sugar cannot be explained by those who were already anxious or depressed using sugar as a form of comfort,” Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at UC, who was not involved in the research, told The Guardian.

Some are skeptical of the results, and suggest it's unlikely sugar is the main risk factor in a man's mental health risk. Still, high-sugar diets have been shown to be unhealthy, regardless of whether they raise depression risk.

For example, while obesity may be the most obvious health consequence of having too much sugar in your diet, sugar in high quantities can also harm the brain. A 2002 study found that diets high in sugar affected behavioral brain function by interfering with a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). What's more, this disruption can lead to decreased ability to form and store new memories. In addition, a 2013 study found that high amounts of sugar in the diet can also stress out the heart, and even increase risk of heart failure.

Source: Knuppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Nature . 2017

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