Health updates: Sugar and mental health, and trans fats

February 27, 2012

Depression, Diet, Food, Health, Health Concerns, Women

The following is new information regarding sugar and mental health, and a link between trans fat intake and coronary heart disease.

The links between sugar and mental health

Noted British psychiatric researcher Malcolm Peet conducted a provocative cross-cultural analysis of the relationship between diet and mental illness. His primary finding was a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia.

There are at least two potential mechanisms through which refined sugar intake could exert a toxic effect on mental health.

First, sugar actually suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF, and these levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia.

Second, sugar consumption triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that promote chronic inflammation. In the long term, inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of the immune system and wreaks havoc on the brain. Once again, it is linked to a greater risk of depression and schizophrenia.

Two “foods” you should never eat 

For women with heart disease, eating too many artery-clogging trans fats may increase their risk of dying suddenly from cardiac arrest. Trans fats, found largely in commercially prepared baked and fried foods, have become notorious in recent years because they not only raise “bad” LDL cholesterol, but also lower levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.

High trans fat intake has been linked to coronary heart disease, in which fatty plaques build up in the heart arteries, sometimes leading to a heart attack. In a new study, researchers found that among nearly 87,000 U.S. women who were followed for 26 years, trans fat intake was linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death among women who had underlying coronary heart disease. In this group, the women who ate the most trans fats were three times more likely to die of cardiac arrest.


Sources: Psychology Today July 23, 2009, The British Journal of Psychiatry May 2004; 184:404-8, USA Today December 14, 2009, MSNBC December 14, 2009, Reuters December 2, 2009, American Heart Journal November 2009; 158(5):761-7 and

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2010.

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