Bad for More Than Just Cavities: Sugar May Harm Mental Health

It seems like everything is somehow linked with mental health these days, from the amount of sunlight in the sky to the amount of sleep we get to the bacteria in our digestive systems. Now, a new factor may be emerging – sugar. Scientists at the London Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health have used a mathematical model to examine a previous study on the relationship between sugar and depression in a new light.

Conventional thinking, along with a substantial amount of scientific evidence, has held that since delicious food reliably provides positive bodily sensations, people facing the chronic lack of the same associated with depression might demonstrate an increased consumption of sugary food in an attempt to briefly feel better. However, the authors of the study found what they term "reverse causation" through their mathematical model. Essentially, the evidence suggests that increased intake of sugar might increase one’s risk of depression as well, in addition to other factors.

While the biological model for this observed trend may be opaque, there are tangentially-related findings that do imply a connection between neuronal health and sugar consumption. For example, people with diabetes (a disease characterized by unstable blood sugar) have significantly higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. Evidence has suggested that sudden spikes in blood glucose (as occur with sugar consumption) are detrimental to the myelin sheaths surrounding the nerves. Additionally, consumption of carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates like sugar and white bread) can increase one’s overall level of inflammation, which has long been implicated in depression.

This link, if confirmed, is troubling in light of the rising sugar consumption of the population. The British Medicine Journal found that over 40 percent of "healthy" smoothies and juices aimed at children had more than 19 grams of sugar – an entire day’s worth, according to nutritional guidelines. Baby food and toddler snacks continue to increase in their sugar content as well.

It’s clear that as a whole, we need to eat less sugar, and cutting out unnecessary dietary sources is important. Researchers have identified a supplementary way that one can unconsciously reduce their intake of sugar: just drink more water. A study published recently in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics shows that simply increasing the amount of water consumed in one day can make a significant reduction in the amount of sugar eaten by as much as 200 calories a day! Water is also good for dental health, helping to maintain a healthy pH and wash away plaque.

These studies reveal how closely diet and hydration are linked with dental health and mental health, and should be emphasized as a preventative measure against cavities, stress and depression.

Ellis, M. (2017). Drinking more water reduces sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake. Medical News Today. Retrieved 14 August 2017, from

Sugar and mental health: A toxic combination?. (2017). Medical News Today. Retrieved 14 August 2017, from

Whiteman, H. (2017). The war on sugar: 'Children should consume fewer than 6 teaspoons daily'. Medical News Today. Retrieved 14 August 2017, from

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