Whilst the physical effects of a high-sugar diet are well documented, far less is made of the impact on our mental health. The evidence and the link between sugar and mental health is mounting and researchers are only now beginning to understand its effect on brain health.
Three mental health issues affected by sugar
A recent study conducted by University College London working with civil servants in Whitehall showed that consuming significant amounts of sugar could lead to depression, rather than being a consequence of it.
Sugar causes our blood sugar to spike and then crash and this may accentuate the symptoms of depression, as well as increasing the risk of depression. This occurs because sugar suppresses activity of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is found to be abnormally low in individuals with depression. Sugar is also responsible for chronic inflammation, which impacts the immune system and the brain.
Although sugar hasn’t been shown to cause anxiety, it does appear to worsen anxiety symptoms and inhibit the body’s ability to cope with stress. Since sugar can cause blurry vision, difficulty thinking and fatigue, thereby increasing worry and fear in anxiety sufferers.
3. Learning and memory
Research from Oregon State University found that a high-sugar diet causes changes in gut bacteria that seem to lead to significant loss in cognitive flexibility, a measurement of the brain’s ability to switch between thinking about one concept to another, and to adapt to changes in the environment.
Diet and mental health are intrinsically linked
Over the years, several research teams have investigated the effect of diet on mental health. For example, consumption of processed and fast food - including hamburgers, pizza, and fried foods - was found to be higher in both youngsters and adults with increased rates of depression.
In the US, people with high levels of sugar in their diet had greater rates of depression than those who consumed less sugar, and in China, adults who traditionally drink unsweetened tea and then drank sugary soft drinks had higher rates of depression.
Cutting sugar from our diet
With the afternoon slump or that feeling of intense tiredness, it’s easy to reach for something sweet. Even if we try to do the right thing and go for healthy options, these can also have high levels of hidden sugar. The culprits include healthy breakfast cereals, sauces, wholemeal bread, and many products labelled as low fat, such as fruit yogurts.
The best way to keep tabs on sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutritional labels and check the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in the product.
Jung Shim recipes
At Jung Shim, we cook daily in our Centres and we understand the benefits of a healthy diet for the body and mind. We have shared a selection of our favourite recipes that help our bodies recover from every day stresses whilst promoting healthy living.
Our favourites sugar free recipes include:
So, the next time a low mood threatens to spoil your day, remember where sugar is hidden in plain sight and look to other tasty treats to lift you out of the doldrums.
Good nutrition is essential for our mental and physical health. Food can influence our mood and our mood/energy levels affect the type of food we crave. At Jung Shim, our focus is improving personal energy levels through a combination of energy treatments, energy plans and good nutrition to support our body's needs and requirements.