Does Sugar Have An Effect On Depression?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

bowl of raw sugar

Scientific Reports recently reported on the effect that sugar has on depression. 8,000 adults were followed for two decades plus, 22 years total, following men specifically. Researchers found that high quantities of sugar in the diet, a whopping 67 grams of sugar a day, created a 23% higher likelihood for being depressed with clinical depression after the onset of the study.

Participants would fill out a survey every few years about the state of their diets, dietary choices and their health. Additionally, the men in the study answered questions about their mental health, like the development of any depression or anxiety. Interestingly, despite the increase of mental health diagnoses, there were no clinical diagnoses pre existing at the time the study began. It took five years for researchers to see a change in trend. Men who ate the high quantities of sugar, like 67 grams of sugar per day, were more often diagnosed with mental health disorders. Interestingly, when there were dietary changes, there was still a high prevalence of mental health disorder. This study might have answered an old ‘chicken or the egg’ inquiry in regard to sugar and mental health. Depression or anxiety does not cause a greater likelihood to consume sugar, but a high sugar diet might be creating depression and anxiety, which is then unchanged.

Sugar is a stimulant substance which spikes the brain’s production of dopamine, much like drugs and alcohol does. Hyper and euphoric, the experience of consuming high amounts of sugar is a pleasurable one, until the sugar wears off. Sugar does create a spike in the experience of pleasure, but it creates a crash which takes all of the pleasure away. After producing such a strong amount of dopamine, the brain starts craving sugar immediately, to recreate that highly stimulated and euphoric experience. Spike and crash cycles eventually exhaust the brain, making it difficult to produce dopamine without sugar. This is how the cycle of substance use disorders start as well. The brain becomes dependent on a substance and cannot tolerate the crashes. It is possible that the constant presence of sugar creates an imbalance in the brain which contributes to the development of depression.


Depression, and other mental health disorders, are a mind-body experience, which is why proper diet and nutrition that is mental health focused is strongly suggested. At Avalon By The Sea, our clients work on building skills for healing their body through nutrition and exercise, wellness, and enjoyment. As a certified primary mental health treatment facility, our programs for treating depression are trusted to provide trusted results in healing the mind, body, and spirit. For a confidential assessment and more information on our residential treatment programs for depression, call us today: 888-958-7511

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