Could Too Many Refined Carbs Make You Depressed?

Could Too Many Refined Carbs Make You Depressed?

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Refined carbohydrates — such as those found in white bread, white rice and sodas — may harm more than the waistlines of older women. New research shows that eating too much of these highly processed foods might also raise their risk of depression.

Luckily, the opposite also appears to be true: The analysis also found that those who ate lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dietary fiber appeared to see their risk for depression drop.

The study involved more than 70,000 women aged 50 to 79. The findings, the investigators said, only show an association between “refined” carbs and elevated depression risk, rather than a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

“[But] it is already well known that people who suffer from depression tend to crave carbohydrates,” said study author James Gangwisch, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry with the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City.

So the researchers set out to look at the dynamic in reverse. The goal: to see whether consuming refined carbs — a known driver of high blood sugar levels — actually raises depression risk among women with no recent history of mental illness.

The apparent answer: Yes.

Gangwisch and his colleagues reported their findings Aug. 5 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The investigators reviewed nutrition and mental health records collected at 40 clinical centers across 24 states and the District of Columbia during the well-known Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study.

None of the women had any history of substance abuse, depression or any other form of mental illness in the three years leading up to their enrollment in the study.

The result at the end of the study: The more refined sugars a woman ate, the higher her blood sugar levels and the greater her risk for a bout of depression.

As to why, Gangwisch said that “one likely explanation is spikes and troughs in blood sugar [levels] that result from the consumption of these foods. Blood sugar that is too high induces an elevated insulin [hormonal] response that can lower blood sugar to levels that induce a hormonal counter-regulatory response.”

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