Refined Carbohydrates May Increase Your Risk of Depression

Refined Carbohydrates May Increase Your Risk of Depression | The Paleo Diet

At the core of healthy living and Paleo lies the movement against refined carbohydrates. In addition to the risk of excess weight gain, many already know that it leads to further known health complications such as poor cardiovascular health, and diabetes. Adherence to the right nutrition is associated with not only promoting good physical well-being, but mental health as well.

A recent study conducted at Columbia University was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed consuming a diet full of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta increases an individual’s risk of depression.1 On the flip side, their findings suggested a diet rich in roughage (high-fiber plants) and vegetables decreases the risk of depression.2

NUTRITION AND DEPRESSION

Poor nutrition has long been identified as a key cause of depression. Previous longitudinal studies have shown an association between sweetened beverages, refined foods, and pastries, and an increased risk of depression.3

Depression is a mental health condition that negatively impacts all areas of a person’s life.4 The medical diagnosis suggests an individual is in a depressed mood or has lost interest or pleasure in almost every form of daily activity for at least two weeks.5 With an estimated 350 million people globally suffering from depression, this landmark study deserves exposure and can play a chief role in both preventing and treating the condition.

So, what exactly is the connection between nutrition and depression? Well, eating refined carbohydrates causes a huge spike in blood sugar. High blood sugar induces a hormonal response resulting in the release of insulin.6 Consequently, blood sugar levels decrease to a point where a counter regulatory response occurs.6 The spikes and crashes are commonly associated with the varying mood changes of depression. Spikes often parallel increased hunger, irritability and anxiety whereas crashes oscillate with extreme tiredness or fatigue, and depression can occur.6

Just think about the times you may have “mistakenly” eaten one too many servings of a very sweet dessert, experienced a sugar high and then fallen victim to the dreaded crash.

THE STUDY

This particular study used a large cohort (group) of 70,000 postmenopausal women who took part in the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1994 and 1998. The main variables observed were the dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, types of carbohydrates consumed, and depression.7

Previous studies have shown a positive correlation between how refined a carbohydrate is and the glycemic index (GI). The more refined it is, the higher the glycemic index on the scale. A standard GI scale starts at 0 and ends at 100, and helps with measuring postprandial blood sugar levels, which are blood sugar levels after eating. White bread and white rice, along with sweetened beverages were high on the GI scale.

Researchers found the higher the GI scores, the greater the risk of developing new-onset depression in post-menopausal women. Given the link between higher consumption of dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables and non-juice fruits, the school of thought suggests the process of refining strips the food of a key nutrient: fiber. The benefits of fiber in the body, including decreasing blood cholesterol and type 2 diabetes are well documented.8 Studies have long associated increased dietary fiber with a decreased risk of colon cancer as well.8

SUMMARY

Adhering to a nutritional regime like the Paleo diet, which is rich in fiber and vegetables, can play a role in treatments and preventive measures for depression. Notwithstanding, the study does have limitations and begs the question as to whether the link between nutrition and depression bears a cause-effect relationship.9 Is depression the root cause of an individual making poor food choices, for example? Nevertheless, the study shows great potential and reminds us the tremendous impact our nutrition choices can have on our health and well-being.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Gangwisch J, Hale L, Garcia L, Malaspina D, Opler M, Payne M, et al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015 Aug 5.

[2] Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. How Fiber Helps Protect Against Cancer. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 21. Available from: http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/how-fiber-helps-protect-against-cancer.

[3] Sathyanarayana Rao T, Asha M, Ramesh B, Jagannatha Rao K. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): p. 77-82.

[4] World Health Organization. Depression. [Online].; 2012 [cited 2015 Aug 21. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/.

[5] MedlinePlus. Depression. [Online].; 2014 [cited 2015 Aug 21. Available from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003213.htm.

[6] Sathyanarayana Rao T, Asha M, Ramesh B, Jagannatha Rao K. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): p. 77-82.

[7] Gangwisch J, Hale L, Garcia L, Malaspina D, Opler M, Payne M, et al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015 Aug 5.

[8] Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. How Fiber Helps Protect Against Cancer. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 21. Available from: http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/how-fiber-helps-protect-against-cancer.

[9] US Department of Health & Human Services. Could Too Many Refined Carbs Make You Depressed? [Online].; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 21. Available from: http://healthfinder.gov/News/Article/702150/could-too-many-refined-carbs-make-you-depressed.

About O. H. Okoye, MD, MBA, MSEpi

O. H. Okoye, MD, MBA, MSEpiDr. Obianuju Helen Okoye is a US Health Care Consultant with a Medical Degree (MD), an MBA in Healthcare Management, and a Masters in Epidemiology/Public Health. Her background includes being a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Research Fellow, and State of Michigan HIV/AIDS Epidemiologist.

She has a plethora of clinical research experience and has presented at US and International Medical Conferences. Dr. Okoye has authored some publications, such as the impact of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act on medical tourism in the USA, the Market Analysis on US Health Reform (Impact on Supply and Demand for Health Care Services), and on lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic. Dr. Okoye’s interests include disease prevention, empowering under-served communities globally, bridging access (to) and streamlining the delivery of healthcare services.

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“1” Comments

  1. I genuinely hope this information may help those who suffer from depression, to change their eating habits to a Paleo lifestyle. That said, I’ve been eating Paleo since 2011 and have experienced several major depressions. I’m all too familiar with this condition as I had my first ‘episode’ at 14 and am now 58, so I’m not sure about this study.
    We’re all different however, and sometimes life’s circumstances can make things very difficult, no matter what the diet. I still believe Paleo is the way to go, both physically and emotionally, though.

  2. Pingback: Refined Carbohydrates May Increase Your Risk of Depression | Health Fitness Daily

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