New research to be presented at the upcoming American Academy Of Neurology meeting suggests drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda or fruit punch could increase a person's risk for depression.
Drinking coffee without sugar was linked to a slightly lower risk of depression. Experts speculate the caffeine may give people a mood lift. Previous studies have shown that consuming caffeine may help with depression.
Researchers followed the drinking habits of about 264,000 people age 50 to 71 for one year.
"People who drank more soda and fruit punch were 30 percent more likely to have a diagnosis of depression about 10 years later," said USC endocrinologist Dr. Kathleen Page.
Dr. Page has done extensive research on the effects of sugar on the brain.
"Drinking certain types of sugar has effects on brain regions that control motivation and reward, and that different types of sugar have different effects on those brain regions," said Page.
A secondary analysis of the data revealed drinking artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda also increased a person's risk for depression.
"We can't necessarily know what it is about diet drinks that may be leading to this, and we don't know if this is a causal relationship," said Page.
As Dr. Page points out, the study only shows an association. It doesn't prove sugar and artificial sweeteners cause depression. But it couldn't hurt to cut back.
"Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has doubled in children and adults in the United States over the past few decades," said Page.
Dr. Page says we should try to drink more water and unsweetened teas and coffee.
The study is not yet published. It will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in March.