People frequently discuss the physical consequences of excessive soda use, but these beverages also harm your mental health.
It’s common knowledge that eating too much sugar is hazardous for your health. It’s logical to wonder if soda with added sugar or sweetener is also harmful to your mental health. Although research on the involvement of regular and diet sodas in depression is still in its early stages, it may cause you to reconsider your next can of soda.
Are sodas linked to depression?
There are many aspects to consider when it comes to soda and mental health, including blood sugar levels and long-term health implications.
Effects of Soda on the Body
Although the specific link is unknown, some scientists believe soda can affect your mental health for a variety of reasons. First, drinks can quickly raise your blood sugar levels. This is because they contain no fibre or nutrients to delay the absorption of sugar. High blood sugar levels can promote brain inflammation, which has been related to depression. Secondly, consuming too much sugary soda can lead to weight gain, which some research suggests may raise the risk of depression. According to a 2019 meta-analysis, drinking merely 2 cups (473 mL) of sugar-sweetened soda each day may increase the risk of depression by 5%.
Drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of developing depression
Long-term research has been conducted to determine how regular soda consumption may affect mental health. For five years, a 2017 observational study followed the dietary habits and mental health conditions of over 10,000 participants. It concluded that drinking sugary drinks raised the likelihood of acquiring depression. Older cohort research from 2014 followed over 250,000 older persons over ten years. It discovered that those who consumed 2-3 cans of soda or more per day had a 16% higher chance of developing depression than those who didn’t. Furthermore, the more soda the subjects consumed, the more likely they were to be labelled with depression. Although it is not feasible to say clearly that drinking soda raises your risk of depression based on observational studies like these, the findings do suggest that more research into a possible link is necessary.
Diet sodas are more dangerous than sugary sodas
Although sugar appears to be the cause of any detrimental consequences of soda, diet alternatives may not be any better. Diet drinks, like regular sodas, have been related to an increased risk of depression. In fact, the same 2014 cohort study stated above reveals that diet sodas are more dangerous than sugary sodas. Furthermore, in a 2017 cohort study, female individuals who consumed one or more diet drinks per day were considerably more likely to be depressed. These findings could be linked to the use of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose in diet drinks. Some experts believe that artificial sweeteners may have a harmful impact on the brain and mental health.
Artificial sweeteners have an impact on the brain and mental health
A tiny 2014 randomized double-blind study, for example, fed 80 healthy adults an aspartame-rich diet. Nonetheless, their daily intake was lower than the permissible daily intake. Participants reported more irritated moods, more symptoms of depression, and lower cognitive test results after 8 days. However, keep in mind that most people do not eat at the quantities employed in this study. Still, the long-term effects of drinking aspartame-sweetened diet sodas may be worth considering. Aspartame is thought to inhibit the release of essential neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in your brain. These chemicals are important for mood and well-being. Lower levels are frequently observed in patients suffering from depression. Aspartame may also promote oxidative stress and raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s thought that this can harm neurons in the brain and create depression symptoms. So, while eliminating sugary drinks may help your mental health, diet sodas are not always a viable substitute.
Good foods for depression
Certain meals may help protect you against depression. Coffee and tea may reduce your risk of developing depression, according to the same 2014 study of over 250,000 adults mentioned earlier. Because of their anti-inflammatory characteristics, these drinks may protect your brain from damaging oxidative stress. However, don’t overdo it on the coffee. According to the 2017 cohort study, drinking more than 4 cups (946 mL) of coffee per day may raise your risk of depression. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fibre and may help prevent depression. Fibre helps to keep the microorganisms in your gut healthy, which benefits your mental health. Healthy high-fibre foods include:
- nuts and seeds
When it comes to battling the blues, dark chocolate is another fantastic option. It has strong mood-boosting qualities; just make sure you get a low-sugar version. Magnesium is a mineral that is necessary for optimum mental and emotional wellness. Low magnesium diets have been linked to an increased risk of depression. High-magnesium foods include:
- dark leafy green vegetables
- pumpkin seeds
Another important mineral for mental wellness is vitamin C. It is required for the brain to create dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation. In addition, vitamin C lowers inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. Excellent sources of vitamin C include:
- citrus fruits
- tomato juice
- bell peppers
Foods to avoid for depression
Avoiding foods heavy in sugar and fat, such as pastries, cake, and ice cream, will help minimize your risk of depression. According to a 2020 study, these foods cause inflammation in the body and lead to depression. Keep track of how much fruit juice you consume to reduce your sugar intake. These beverages, like soda, can be heavy in sugar. Ketchup and salad dressings are two other sugar-rich foods that are frequently missed or hidden. Additionally, minimize or eliminate processed foods such as potato chips, hot dogs, and sugary breakfast cereals. According to a large 2019 cohort study, these are inflammatory foods that are directly associated with higher symptoms of depression. Finally, limit your alcohol consumption. Although many people resort to alcohol when they are feeling unhappy, any potential relief is fleeting. Long-term alcohol consumption may raise the risk of depression.
High sugar content responsible for potential negative mental health impacts
While definitive results are missing, recent research suggests that both sugary and diet sodas on a regular and excessive basis may raise the chance of getting depression. The high sugar content of ordinary sodas, as well as the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks, may be responsible for these potential negative mental health impacts. That doesn’t mean that you should never consume Coke again. It’s fine to indulge occasionally as long as it’s not a daily occurrence. If you find yourself often craving and reaching for a soda, try to instead opt for alternatives like:
- herbal tea
- coconut water
- vegetable juice
- sparkling water
- cucumber-and-lemon-infused water
Help is here:
Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline Kiran (1800-599-0019)
Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation
Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.