IT’S A FAMILIAR TROPE: We’re feeling blue, so we reach for the ice cream. But research shows that the causality actually runs in the other direction: It’s the ice cream that makes us feel blue. In recent years, scientists have linked sugar and sugar additives, as well as fast food and processed food, to depression, addictive behavior and anxiety. In other words, our treats are tricking us.
For example, one long-term study tracked the diets and medical conditions of 8,000 people over 22 years, none of whom was being treated for depression or other mental health disorders at the start of the study. At its conclusion, however, men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression in a five-year period than men who ate 40 grams or less. On the other end of the demographic spectrum, researchers studied the diet and mental health of 850 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, and found that consumption of fast foods, including ramen noodles, hamburgers, pizza, fried food and other processed foods, was associated with an increased risk of depression.