Sugar, Depression, SAD. The Holiday Treats That Bite Back:
Sometimes the holidays can be a tough time of year.
We’re supposed to be jolly, but maybe everything isn’t all going great, and that can be hard to forget temporarily.
So in times like that, people can sometimes end-up reaching for some good ole’-fashioned, seasonal, cold-weather comfort-food.
Like the sweet little snacks that seem to be almost-everywhere this time of year.
But a recent study by KU suggests that as great as those cookies and tartlets taste, they may be doing way more harm than good…
The Cookie-Conspiracy Is Trying To Bring You Down:
So a lot of the time, we can end up doing many things out of habit or the social-expectations we call Tradition,
And many of them are great, but they can also pick-up attachments along the way that don’t always work.
For example, most people over-eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,
And that weight is actually pretty tough to lose; it takes 6 months on-average.
But The Short Answer for the study in-question is that eating elevated amounts of sweets like those you might find at the holidays,
May actually make the seasonal negative-feelings you have, like depression, even worse,
Because of all the biochemical-reactions the ingredients (specifically sugars and fast-carbs) are involved-in.
Read on to find out more details…
Question. How Do You Actually Make Yourself Feel Better?:
So what do you do to make yourself feel better, right?
Hopefully, at-least something like Exercise. -Maybe even Journaling.
Possibly even eating some brain-healthy food.
Well, in the season that is often-times more-stressful or even depressing than it should be,
When we can end-up comparing ourselves to other people more than usual.
Especially when they are out there being jolly and appear more sincerely care-free than us.
So you reach for some seasonal treat, that almost-always involves fast-carbs and sugar.
And it tastes good and feels good for the moment.
Depression & Sugar. KU Researchers Find More Bad News:
But KU researchers say that’s not the end of it,
And things get worse from there.
Because with natural-sunlight being greatly-reduced,
And 10% of the population coming-down with some kind of Seasonal-Affective-Disorder or Depression,
The natural instinct can be to crave a high-sugar food.
But according to their research, high-sugar ingestion can screw up several different parts of you,
All of which lead to feeling bad and actually Being unhealthy.
2) Disruption of Gut Microbes
3) Disruption of The Brain’s Motivation Circuit
4) Increased Free-Radical Damage
5) Insulin-Resistance & Blood-Sugar Problems
6) Toxic Chemical Buildup From Direct-Reaction With Sugar Itself
Into The Details I. Inflammation And Gut Microbes:
Sugar ingestion results in elevated levels of something called hs-C-Rreactive-Protein, indicating an increase in Inflammation.
Depressed people are already much more likely to have high-levels of persistent, systemic inflammation.
So sugar would only make it worse for a susceptible person, and eventually create a similar inflammatory environment for someone who didn’t start out as depressed.
High sugar-intake encourages the overgrowth of harmful & disruptive microbes in your gut, that cause inflammation directly from there, and also displace & imbalance the good microbes.
Test-animals on high-sugar diets even displayed cognitive impairment.
There is also a possibility that this imbalance can result in further inflammation by letting endo-toxins escape the containment of your GI tract,
Where they have to be cleaned up by other processes in your body which are inflammatory in nature, and like an immune-response.
For example, one of the gut microbes associated with inflammation and depression is called Alistipes.
Into The Details II. Dopamine-Interruptus & The Brain’s Reward Circuit:
Many people with depression also already have problems with their Dopamine-system.
Unfortunately, sugar acts just like cocaine in that regard.
First you get a boost, then you get a crash, and it also blunts the action of normal dopamine-receptors,
So that to get back to normal, you have to be off of high-sugar diets for a long time.
This would make the dopamine-deficit, and thus depression, Worse until that recovery-point occurs.
So, high-sugar as a mood-booster is actually a pretty terrible solution.
One that will also make you fat in the meantime, and HT readers already know that bodyfat does not regulate itself,
And that results in an increase in inflammation also, because it’s just kicking out way too many hormones for one person.
Into The Details III. Digesting Sugar = Free-Radicals & Oxidative-Stress:
Because of their chemical structure, when they are metabolized sugars also wildly-imbalance the amount of free-radicals in your body.
Those chemicals then attach to other parts of your body at a very small level, screwing-up all kinds of normal chemical-reactions,
And creating damage that’s referred to as Oxidative Stress.
Those nasty molecules look exactly like the formula for sugar, just broken into 3 small dangerous components.
And guess what?
Sure-enough, people with depression also have been measured to already have higher-amounts of those bad chemicals and oxidative-stress in them than non-depressed people.
Some reversal of depressive-symptoms has happened just by giving those patients antioxidants and Vitamin D.
Into The Details IV. Strange Reactions & Diabetes-Risk From Insulin-Resistance:
And another contrarian thing that can result is Insulin-Resistance.
The more high-sugar foods you take in, the less insulin can help that blood-sugar into your cells to be used for energy.
These aren’t just in your muscles, but in other parts including your Brain, too.
And that’s another way Depression can take-root. Reduced energy, right in your brain, along with all the preceding problems.
And it can start in as little as 1 week of over-consuming sugar.
So you really Can have too much of a “good” thing.
Into The Details V. Sugar + Body-Chemicals, Another Toxic Mix:
And if that wasn’t bad-enough, it’s not just the breakdown-products of sugar,
Sugar itself can attach to all kinds of molecules in your body,
Especially the useful fats and proteins that make all your systems work back and forth.
And the end product of these (AGE-compounds)?
You guessed it. Inflammation, reduction of antioxidants, reduced energy, impaired biological function, accelerated-aging,
And Depression again as a result.
Also as you might have guessed, just as people with SAD are more vulnerable to sugar-depression,
Depressed people in-general have been found to have lower levels of biological-safeguards that would neutralize these weird (AGE) combos between sugar+protein or sugar+body-fats.
OK, So All Of That Sucks. What Can You Do About It?:
1) Know Yourself.
1a) Do you get extra-sad around the holidays? Take it easy on your psyche. Then take it easy on anything sugary.
1b) I know. That 2nd part sucks.
2) Make sure you’re doing as much as you can to counter depression in a supportive way.
2a) Get good sleep
2b) Eat a really healthy diet, try to get some Omega 3s if you can.
2c) Make sure you’re hydrated, so you don’t confuse Thirst for Hunger & over-eat
2d) Check with your doctor & make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D for the time of year.
2e) Maybe try some SAD-focused therapies, like Natural Light Boxes, etc.
2f) Substitute Sugary-Snacks for things like Dr. Neal Barnard-approved, Brain-Healthy Mixed Nuts
2g) Avoid anything unnecessary that could create more inflammation
It’s A Letdown For Cookie-Monsters, But You’ll Be Better-Off:
So it’s kind-of a bummer to read all those downsides,
But maybe that’s why a long time ago, parents and grand-parents used to refer to anything sweet as an Exception to the Rule of good nutrition,
And not something you should have much of, or too regularly.
Either way, it is surprising that in all those different ways, sugar can act like a drug that seems fun at-first, but then really screws you up later-on down the line.
And if you’re one of those people vulnerable to Depression or SAD, you really have to be more careful around sugary snacks than the average person; even if it is the holiday season.
References & Links:
• Source: KU
• Source Study: J.Medical Hypotheses – The depressogenic potential of added dietary sugars