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Soda Linked To Depression

Niki Hashemi |
November 9, 2013 | 2:36 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Depressed? You should probably put down the soda and other sweet drinks (Flickr/Visions By Vicky).
Depressed? You should probably put down the soda and other sweet drinks (Flickr/Visions By Vicky).
Research suggests that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages -- especially diet drinks -- can lead to an increased risk of depression. Surprisingly, drinking coffee may actually decrease the risk of developing depression.

About the study:

In 1995-1996, the National Institute of Health ran a study to determine whether or not sweetened beverages lead to higher rates of depression. A total of 263,925 adults between the ages of 50 and 71 were evaluated to determine their beverage consumption habits. 10 years later, researchers asked the participants whether they had been diagnosed with depression during the course of the study.

The participants who drank more than four cans of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink any soda.

The results were even more shocking for those who drank at least four cans of fruit punch a day. Their likelihood of developing depression over the course of the study was at a whopping 38 percent.

Meanwhile, those who drank at least four cups of coffee were actually 10 percent less likely to develop depression.

Lead researcher Honglei Chen said in a press release, “Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk.”

However, he also said that more research is needed to confirm these findings.

The findings were discussed at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th annual meeting in San Diego, March of 2013.

Shortcomings of the study:

The study suffered a few shortcomings. First, it did not determine a direct correlation between consumption of sugary beverages and depression.

Chen said, “While our findings are preliminary, and the underlying biological mechanisms are not known, they are intriguing and consistent with a small but growing body of evidence suggesting that artificially sweetened beverages may be associated with poor health outcomes.”

Another drawback was in the design of the study itself. The researchers merely asked the subjects what their beverage consumption habits were. It is likely that participants either over or under reported their consumption habits.

Furthermore, the study only focused on older adult populations. In recent years, the rate of childhood obesity has increased exponentially. A similar study measuring the rate of depression in children, teenagers and young adults due to increased sugary beverage consumption would be a good follow-up study.

Also, the individuals who drank coffee did not specify if the coffee was sweetened or not. If the coffee was sweetened, it would be important to determine what it was sweetened with, and if those sweeteners compare to those found in diet soda drinks and fruit drinks.

Why sweetened sodas can cause depression:

According to a study published in 2010 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, obese people have a 55 percent greater risk of developing depression compared to people with a normal BMI (body mass index).  

Assuming that many people who drink significantly more soda consume more high fructose corn syrup per day, we can also assume that those who consume more high fructose corn syrup have higher BMI's.

In the 1980s, high fructose corn syrup was being commercially used as an artificial sweetener in many food and beverage products, including sodas and fruit drinks. As the amount of high fructose corn syrup increased, so too did the rate of overweight and obese people. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published studies about the correlation between obesity and high fructose corn syrup in 2003. 

Based on these findings, it is possible that the reason there is a higher depression rate in those who drink significantly more soda or fruit drinks is because those individuals have a higher risk of being overweight or obese.

Therefore, the study would have benefited from including the BMI of the individuals to create more depth in the research.

ALSO SEE: FDA Ignores Health Risks Associated With Artificial Sweeteners 

New York City Moves To Ban Large Sodas

Healthy alternatives to soda

Water. This goes without saying -- water is the healthiest beverage out there. But if you just can't stand how plain it is, try this homemade healthy fruit drink. It will give water that twist you need, as well as essential nutrients. 

16 oz c of water
1 tbs ground ginger
1 persian cucumber
1 orange

Mix the water and the ground ginger together. Then slice up your orange and squeeze the juice into the water. Cut your cucumber into 4 long strips and place those in the water. Finally, stir your drink and enjoy.

Ginger contains many therepeutic benefits, and the cucumber helps regulate the body's inner temperature and assists in flushing out toxins. Oranges contain an abundant source of vitamin C and are rich in the dietary fiber pectin, which can help those looking to shed pounds.  

If you are still fighting the urge to enjoy a soda, substitute flat water for carbonated water. This will help you feel fuller as well as give you that fizzy, bubbly texture found in sodas -- minus the negative side effects. 

Reach Staff Reporter Niki Hashemi here or follow her on Twitter.



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