Regular consumption of sweetened beverages, especially diet drinks flavored with artificial sweeteners, is linked to a greater risk for depression among older adults, according to new research from the American Academy of Neurology.
Coffee, however, was found to be associated with a slightly lower risk for depression.
“Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical — and may have important mental — health consequences,” said study researcher Honglei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., an investigator in the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
For the study, researchers looked at the beverage consumption of 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 over the course of a year. About 10 years later, the researchers checked back in with the participants.
Overall, 11,311 participants had been diagnosed with depression. The frequent consumption of sweetened beverages was linked to a modestly higher risk of depression, said Chen.
Diet soda drinkers were found to be at the highest risk for depression.
The researchers have no explanation for this connection, but the study adds to a growing body of research that shows artificially sweetened drinks can lead to poor health outcomes. Artificial sweeteners include aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and Splenda.
The study also revealed that people who consume four or more cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with depression than non-coffee drinkers.
Again, there’s no explanation for the link, but Chen points to the high concentration of antioxidants and phytochemicals in coffee and tea as one possible reason for these findings.
“Our research suggests that cutting down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may help lower your depression risk,” Chen said.
“More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors.”
Source: American Academy of Neurology