Soft Drinks and Depression
Soda seems to be in the media a lot these days. Take, for instance, a highly-touted study about diet soda. When researchers from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio compared the waistlines of diet soda drinkers against a group of non-diet drinkers, the former had 70% greater increases in belly bulge over the course of the 9.5-year study.
Soft Drinks and Depression
Press coverage like this is prolific, and most of us understand that soda is bad for our health, especially if we’re trying to lose weight. But that’s only part of the story. Drinking sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened iced tea may put you at a greater risk for depression, according to new research from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
Previous studies have found that drinking sweetened beverages was associated with a higher prevalence of depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental distress. But the study from the AAN was the first to be prospective, meaning it followed people over a number of years.
Researchers evaluated the beverage intake of 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 over the course of one year. Roughly 10 years later, the researchers checked back with the subjects. As it turns out, 11,311 adults had been diagnosed with depression. Overall, the frequent consumption of sweetened beverages was associated with a modestly higher risk of depression.
Here are the details of the findings:
- People who drank more than four cans or cups of soda per day were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda.
- Those who drank four cans of fruit punch per day were about 38% more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink sweetened drinks.
- The risk of depression was greater for those who drank diet soda rather than regular soda, diet fruit drinks instead of sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, and diet rather than regular iced tea.
But the news is good for coffee fans. The same researchers found that people who enjoyed four or more cups of joe a day were 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with depression than non-java drinkers. There’s no explanation for the connection, but researchers point to the abundance of antioxidants and phytochemicals in coffee and tea as one possible explanation for the results.
An Inconclusive Association
Ultimately, researchers only found an association; it’s unknown whether people with depression then drink more sugary drinks, or if sugary drinks spur the depression. Because the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings should be considered preliminary.
Still, other studies have come to similar conclusions, such as one published in 2011, in the Archives of Internal Medicine. That also showed an association between caffeinated coffee consumption and decreased depression risk. Similarly, an Australian study suggested a link between drinking soda daily and an increased risk of psychological distress and depression.
About half of Americans who participated in a study conducted as part of Gallup’s Annual Consumption Habits Poll claimed they drink at least one glass of soda per day. In 2009, soda’s sales were up 2.5%, the first annual gain in five years. During the same 12-month period, sales of milk and yogurt drinks fell nearly 15%, while fruit and vegetable juices, bottled water, and sport drinks also fell. Thus, although the media tells us not to drink it, Americans clearly love the sweet, carbonated qualities of soda.
The question is at what price does this enjoyment come?