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NIH Study Links Diet Drinks to Depression

Lisa Garber
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January 17th, 2013
Updated 01/17/2013 at 2:30 am
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sodacanopened 265x165 NIH Study Links Diet Drinks to DepressionA new study by the National Institutes of Health has linked diet beverages with heightened risk of depression in older adults.

Researchers surveyed over 260,000 adults aged 50 to 71 in the United States on their beverage habits. Ten years later, survey responders were asked if they had been diagnosed with depression. Of those who reported consuming four or more daily servings of artificially sweetened soda, iced tea, or fruit drinks, 31 percent had been diagnosed. Twenty-two percent of regular soda drinkers reported depression diagnoses. Coffee drinkers (four or more cups a day), on the other hand, were 10 percent less likely to suffer depression than non-coffee drinkers.

“Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk,” researcher Honglei Chen said. “More research is needed to confirm these findings.”

Dr. Honglei Chen, a US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences investigator, agrees with many in the scientific community that “research is preliminary and more investigation into the topic is needed.”

Eva Redei, a psychiatry professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago noted that diet beverages’ correlation to depression may have many prongs, like diabetes and obesity, both of which come with greater incidences of depression. Consumers with diabetes or who are obese may drink diet beverages with the intent of helping their weight or blood sugar.

Findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in March. The study is also preliminary and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Beverage Industry Weighs In

Predictably, the American Beverage Association turned up its nose at the study’s findings.

“Neither this [study] nor the body of scientific evidence supports that drinking soda or other sweetened beverages causes depression. Thus, promoting any alleged findings without supporting evidence is not only premature, but irresponsible.”

Diet Drinks and Other Health Conditions

Admittedly, there’s a different between causation and correlation, and the NIH study shows the latter rather than the former. Still, let’s talk about responsibility.

In the past decade, numerous studies have correlated diet drinks with nasty health conditions, including:

  • Heart attack and stroke - Researchers found that diet soda consumption was linked to a 44 percent higher chance of heart attack or stroke, up from the 22 percent non-soda drinkers have.
  • Obesity - Research from Texas involving 474 individuals shows found that consuming two or more diet sodas a day prompts an increase in waist size. In fact, the increase was a shocking six times greater than those who did not drink diet soda.
  • Cell damage - Peter Piper of the University of Sheffield says these chemicals “have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it.

While correlation is not causation, perhaps the ABA should be taking these concerns into consideration while driving their huge paychecks to the bank.

Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

If you’re on the hunt for healthy ways to lose weight, try adding new and natural ingredients into your daily diet before subtracting the heavily processed ones. This will make for a smooth transition and a long-lasting change. (It’s common knowledge now that the majority of extreme diets fail.)

In example, switch your diet soda with tea sweetened with a small amount of locally-sourced honey and no milk. You can also take a walk outside for some of the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D) whenever your cravings kick in. Here are just a few weight loss tips to get you on track.

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