Diet Soda and Depression?

A new study makes a connection between sweetened drinks, especially diet beverages, and depression.

The data comes from a large study done by The National Institutes of Health. Nearly 264,000 adults 50 years and older participated. Consumption of a variety of drinks including soda, fruit punch, tea and coffee was tracked from 1995 to 1996.

Ten years later, researchers asked the participants whether they had been diagnosed with depression since the year 2000. A total of 11,311 had been. Those who drank more than four sodas a day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda. Four cans of fruit punch a day upped that number to 38%.

Digging deeper, the risk was even greater for people who drank diet soda, diet fruit punch and diet iced tea – all containing artificial sweeteners.

On the other hand, people who drank four cups of unsweetened coffee a day were about 10 percent less likely to be depressed.

But correlation does not necessarily mean causation. For example, obese people are more likely to be diet soda drinkers (even after they have lost weight) as are binge/purge eaters – both of these groups are also more likely to suffer from depression. This diet soda connection is a correlation, not a causation, of depression. Similarly, coffee drinkers may be more apt to be employed and Type A-driven people, who have a lower incidence of depression. People with blood pressure and heart problems are often restricted from drinking coffee and have higher rates of depression that are not caused by lack of caffeine, but correlate with the fact they are not drinking coffee because of other health problems.

Nonetheless, the NIH suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower depression risk.


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