A new study has linked consumption of diet soda soft drinks to an increased likelihood of experiencing depression.
The data comes from a large study done by the National Institute of Health. People who drank four sodas a day had a 30% higher chance of developing depression than those who did not drink sweetened drinks. Also those who drank four drinks of fruit punch were 38% more likely to develop depression.
The survey population covered 263,925 Americans between the ages of 50 and 71. In 1995 researchers looked at a variety of different drinks consumed by this population. A decade later they checked this population and screened for those with depression, which was 11,311. Somewhat surprisingly four cups of coffee a day actually decreased likelihood of developing depression by 10%.
Our take on these findings
This is not an incredibly insightful discovery, as it belongs in the common sense basket. The study doesn’t prove that drinking diet drinks directly causes depression. It can also be implied that such high volumes of sugary and poor quality drinks would indicate a lack of self care that could be an outworking of an already depressed mind.
The age factor is significant. 50-71 represents only a narrow demographic segment of the population. It would have been nice to see a wider scale and even differences amongst different demographics analysed.
The article on the Smithsonian asks the good question of causality or correlation
Do the ingredients in both diet sodas and normally-sweetened drinks trigger changes in the brain chemistry that lead to depression? Or are people with the tendency to become depressed simply more likely to drink these beverages in the first place?*
The bottom line is that diet soda isn’t necessarily a trigger, this study just shows regular and high intake of diet sodas and depression are linked. It could also point to other parts of diet too; one could assume that four diet soda drinks a day would accompany a poor diet, encompassing large quantities of fast and processed foods.
However if you have a strong anxiety disorder along with depression, it might be best to avoid caffeine altogether. For a more healthy lifestyle cut down on soda drinks and substitute them with water.
References and further reading
Diets in Review