Eating a diet high in added is definitely not the best for you. Added sugar is nutritionally bankrupt. So eating lots of this sweet nutrient can result in nutrient deficiencies, and impact your health negatively. But can sugar cause anxiety? That’s what I’ll be addressing in this article.
Eating a diet full of whole foods is one of the most important things you can do for your health. When you swap out the whole foods for the added sugars, your health can suffer and if your health suffers, that can take its toll on you and cause anxiety (anxiety, and health anxiety).
What Do The Facts Say?
A 2017 study where data was collected on 23,245 people showed that men who had a higher sugar intake had a 23% greater chance of developing common mental disorders after 5 years. These common mental disorders include anxiety and depressive disorders.
Another study that was done in 2019 on 1128 adults shows that diets that are higher in refined sugars and saturated fat were associated with higher levels of anxiety in individuals.
Contrary to popular belief there is no evidence to suggest sugar rushes and sugar crashes are real (in individuals who are not diabetic or pre-diabetic).
There was a meta-analysis ( a study of studies) of 23 studies. And this study was made up of children, some normal and healthy and some healthy but autistic, and they ingested either sugar or a placebo (which was aspartame). The children and researchers were unaware of what they were given.
The results found that:
” The meta-analytic synthesis of the studies to date found that sugar does not affect the behaviour or cognitive performance of children.”
So the belief in sugar rushes and crashes isn’t as clear as commonly thought. Sugar rushes and crashes rarely affect the generally healthy individual. But they could indicate that an individual is pre-diabetic or diabetic.
You Shouldn’t Have To Worry About Sugar Too Much Unless Intake Is Excessive
Eating too much added sugar can leave you swapping healthy foods for less healthy foods. But unless this is taken to the extreme ( eating the majority of your diet from added sugars) then it shouldn’t cause you a problem.
Sugar And Obesity
This study which was conducted by the sugar bureau, shows:
” Evidence showed that higher intakes of sugar were related to leanness, not obesity, and had no detrimental effects on micronutrient intakes in most people.”
Sugar isn’t the main cause of obesity. Eating too many calories is. But many high-calorie foods that are more likely to result in overeating and weight gain are made up of sugar and fat.
These foods include:
- Other popular desserts
Although the evidence suggests that eating sugar isn’t associated with obesity. It can definitely be one of the factors causing obesity if you were to regularly overeat foods like the ones above.
Obesity And Anxiety
If high-calorie foods like the ones above are consumed excessively they can quite easily result in weight gain.
And studies show ” a moderate level of evidence exists for a positive association between obesity and anxiety disorders “.
Soft drinks are also very high in calories and if drank in excess alongside the aforementioned high-calorie foods and an excessive amount of dietary fat, can also cause obesity ( if you eat more calories than you burn). Which can inherently cause feelings of anxiety.
Because how we feel and look can affect how we think about ourselves. And feeling unhealthy and unhappy with our appearance can definitely impact our mental health negatively.
Limits For Sugar Intake To Avoid Any Issues
You have no need to worry about your added sugar intake and any issues. So long as you consume it as part of a nutritious diet.
A good rule of thumb is to limit added sugar to around 10-20% of your diet.
This way your diet will be mostly made up of 80-90% of nutritious whole foods.
And if your diet is mostly made up of nutritious whole foods, then this amount of sugar won’t leave you nutrient deficient. Because most of your calories will be coming from nutrient-dense foods.
The Difference Between Sugar From Fruit And Added Sugar
Added sugar includes things like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, these are not the only types of added sugar but they are some of the most common types.
Chemically speaking the sugar from an apple and the sugar from a mars bar isn’t different.
But the fruit contains much more micronutrients ( vitamins and minerals ) compared to the mars bar.
And that’s why most of your sugar intake should come from fruit. It’s also very hard to overeat and gain weight eating fruit whereas it’s much easier to gain weight eating chocolate, desserts, candy, and drinking sugary soft drinks. And if weight gain occurs and health suffers this can cause anxiety.
There was a study conducted by the University of Hawaii which included an extensive review of the literature on sugar and found:
“It is important to state at the outset that there is no direct connection between added sugars intake and obesity unless excessive consumption of sugar-containing beverages and foods leads to energy imbalance and the resultant weight gain.”
So Can Sugar Cause Anxiety?
There’s definitely a correlation between a diet high in added sugar ( and just a poor diet in general) and anxiety. There’s also evidence to suggest that obesity can cause anxiety.
Although as part of a healthy diet, added sugar is unlikely to be a problem for you. If you overconsume added sugar and eat too many calories resulting in weight gain, this could lead to feelings of anxiety.
Added sugar isn’t nutritious. And eating a poor diet that includes lots of added sugar, and other nutritionally bankrupt foods isn’t going to be great for your health.
And if your health isn’t as good as it could be you could easily develop feelings of anxiety.
So yes, in a scenario when someone eats a poor diet regularly including high amounts of added sugars and saturated fats and eats very few or even no nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables and also overeats.
They are likely to be unhealthier, lack important nutrients and feel uncomfortable at a higher body fat percentage which can lead to feelings of anxiety.
But if you eat a diet that includes 80-90% of whole foods and include added sugar in moderation and also exercise a few times per week.
Then consuming added sugar is not very likely at all to affect you in any way.
The Bottom Line On Can Sugar Cause Anxiety? Here Are The Cold Hard Facts
- Sugar is unlikely to cause anxiety when consumed as part of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
- Sugar is likely to cause anxiety if you’re overeating in general, eating too much added sugar, not eating enough nutritious whole foods and have a sedentary lifestyle resulting in weight gain and diminished health.
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