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The Junk Food–Depression Connection

by Sandy Todd Webster on Mar 15, 2016

Food for Thought

Step away from the refined carbohydrates. The sad irony is that consuming food we often describe as “comforting” actually has the strong potential to push postmenopausal women out of their emotional comfort zones and into depression.

A study published in June of 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103846) by James Gangwisch, PhD, and colleagues in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University, looked at the dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, types of carbohydrates consumed and depression in data from more than 70,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1994 and 1998.

Consumption of carbohydrates increases blood sugar levels to varying degrees, depending on the type of food ingested. The more highly refined the carbohydrate, the higher its score on the glycemic index (GI) scale. The GI scale, which goes from 0 to 100, measures the amount of sugar found in the blood after eating. Refined foods—such as white bread, white rice and soda—trigger a hormonal response in the body to reduce blood sugar levels. This response may cause or exacerbate mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms of depression.

The investigators found that progressively higher dietary GI scores and consumption of added sugars and refined grains were associated with increased risk of new-onset depression in postmenopausal women. Greater consumption of dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables and nonjuice fruits was associated with decreased risk. This suggests that dietary interventions could serve as treatments and preventive measures for depression.

Further study is needed to explore the potential of this option for treatment and prevention and to see if similar results are found in the broader population, say the authors.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.