A new study has found that women with diets that are rich in white bread, sugary beverages, white rice, snack foods and other refined carbs, are not only endangering their physical health every time they have a meal, but also their mental health, especially if they’re post-menopausal women.
The study was conducted by Dr. James Gangwisch and some of his colleagues from Columbia University Medical Center’s department of psychiatry. They looked at more than 70.000 post-menopausal women with the age between 50 and 79, and reviewed their glycemic load, dietary glycemic index (GI), the types of carbohydrates that they consumed, and their depression data.
The dietary glycemic index was of particular interest to the researchers as it measures the quantity of sugar that can be found in the blood after a person has eaten. The team noticed that a high dietary glycemic index due to the consumption of refined grains and added sugars, could be linked to an elevated risk of onset depression among post-menopausal women.
But the reverse was also true. Post-menopausal women who regularly consumed dairy products, dietary fiber, fruits and vegetables (not fruit juices), and whole grains, seemed to decrease their risk of developing depression. It’s worth knowing that blood sugar levels are increased by carbohydrates – the more refined the carbs are, the higher the dietary glycemic index score will be.
Dr. Gangwisch and his team explained that refined foods (white bread, sugary beverages, white rice) cause a hormonal response and make the human body reduce its blood sugar levels. They also strongly believe that this hormonal response may also be responsible for either causing or worsening mood changes, fatigue, as well as other known symptoms of depression.
On top of everything, a diet rich in refined grains and added sugars also increases the risk of experiencing inflammation or cardiovascular disease, two (2) conditions that health experts have linked to depression.
Having said all of this, it’s important to note that the study could not prove a cause and effect relationship between diet and depression, but rather a mere association.
Depressed people have been known to crave carbs, but Alicia Romano, registered dietitian from Tufts Medical Center, gave a statement to CBS News saying that “It’s hard to tell which comes first”.
She went on to add that some people may have an unhealthy diet prior to developing depression. They may generally choose to eat unhealthy foods, and develop depression over the long run, for whatever reason. Their food choices may or may not be one of these reasons.
And at the same time “people who may have a depressed mood at baseline may be more apt to choose unhealthy foods, to either cope with their mood or for another strategy”.
The same results are also believed to apply to men, even though the study didn’t include any.
The researchers hope that their findings will someday lead to the development of dietary interventions that can prevent or at least treat depression.
The study was published earlier this week, on Wednesday (august 5, 2015), in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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