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A recent study from South Korea, where the population traditionally consumes fewer sugary sodas compared to the rest of the world, has provided startling insights. Published in Scientific Reports, the study uncovers the connection between soda consumption and increased depression risk, highlighting weight and blood sugar levels as independent risk factors.
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Weekly Soda Consumption Linked to Higher Depression Risk
The nexus between beverage consumption and depression may not be immediately apparent. Nonetheless, earlier research has spotlighted a heightened prevalence of depression in people who regularly consume sugary sodas. This new Korean study delves into the minimum quantity that amplifies this risk and examines the impact of metabolic factors like obesity and insulin resistance (identified depression risk factors) on the findings. Notably, the study doesn’t distinguish between naturally sweetened beverages and those with artificial sweeteners.
The study incorporated 87,115 Koreans, averaging 39.5 years in age. Approximately one-third of this cohort consumed sugary sodas more than once a week, with some indulging in over five 200ml drinks weekly. Ju Young-Jung, co-author of the study and researcher at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital of Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, emphasized the global implications: “Overconsumption of added sugars in sodas isn’t solely a Western issue. With increasing westernization in Asian countries like South Korea, there’s a growing trend to opt for sodas over water, leading to numerous health challenges.”
Elevated Consumption Equals Heightened Depression Risk
The participants were categorized based on their soda intake. The findings were linear: as soda consumption spiked, the risk of depressive symptoms proportionally surged. The average American drinks over 350ml of soda daily, contrasting sharply with the less than 100ml daily average in South Korea. Given this disparity, researchers were not anticipating a clear association between sugary sodas and depression in the Korean demographic. However, the team observed that even participants consuming sodas once a week exhibited more frequent depressive symptoms than those avoiding the beverage entirely.
Weight and Blood Sugar Levels: Independent Factors
Intriguingly, the study showed that neither weight nor blood sugar levels directly influence depression risk. While high soda consumption has been pinned as a prime mover behind the global obesity crisis, obesity and depression share a bidirectional relationship; each can trigger the other. However, this research spotlights an increased likelihood of depressive symptoms with soda consumption, irrespective of weight or blood sugar concerns. For instance, depression levels were consistent among consumers, whether they were prediabetic, diabetic, or exhibited no blood sugar issues.
While more investigation is needed to elucidate the link between sugary drinks and depression, the researchers hypothesize potential factors: an alteration in gut microbiota, a malfunctioning stress response system, and chronic inflammation.
As global beverage consumption habits evolve, understanding the broader implications of our choices becomes paramount. This study underscores the need for comprehensive public health initiatives and further research into the profound impacts of seemingly benign daily choices.
Park, S.K., Chung, Y., Chang, Y. et al. Longitudinal analysis for the risk of depression according to the consumption of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverage in non-diabetic and diabetic population. Sci Rep 13, 12901 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-40194-6