Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


High sugar intake linked to poor long-term mental health

28 July 2017

A new Whitehall II paper has reported that men with high sugar intakes have an increased likelihood of common mental disorders (such as anxiety and depression) after 5 years compared to those with low intakes.


It was also reported that having a mood disorder did not make people more inclined to eat foods with a high sugar content. 

The Nature scientific report used data from the Whitehall II cohort and analysed the sugar intake from sweet food and beverages and occurrence of common mental disorders in over 5000 men and over 2000 women for a period of 22 years between 1983 and 2013. 

Men and women with mood disorders and high sugar consumption also had an increased chance of being depressed again after 5 years compared to those with lower intakes, but this finding was not independent of other socio-demographic, health and diet-related factors.

In Britain, adults consume approximately double the recommended level of added sugar, with sweet foods and drinks contributing three-quarters of the intakes. Meanwhile, major depression is predicted to become the leading cause of disability in high income countries by 2030.

Professor Eric Brunner (UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health), senior author of the paper, concluded: "Our findings provide yet further evidence that sugary foods and drinks are best avoided. The new sugar tax on soft drinks, which will take effect in April 2018, is a step in the right direction. The physical and mental health of British people deserves some protection from the commercial forces which exploit the human 'sweet tooth'".

Press Coverage:

New ScientistMail OnlineThe ConversationInternational Business TimesEvening StandardExpressIndependentUCL NewsGuardianBelfast TelegraphTelegraphThe Times (£)MirrorThe Sun