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The Sugar-Depression Connection – Experience Life



– Nutrition –

Consuming sugar can lead to body-wide inflammation, microbiome disruption, insulin resistance, and more.

New research continues to make the case for sugar’s role in depression.

University of Kansas clinical psychologists theorize in the journal Medical Hypotheses that added dietary sugars can create a depressogenic effect by sparking the metabolic, inflammatory, and neurobiological processes tied to depression.

“When we consume sweets, they act like a drug,” explains study coauthor Stephen Ilardi, PhD. “They have an immediate mood-elevating effect, but in high doses they can also have a paradoxical, pernicious longer-term consequence of making mood worse, reducing well-being, elevating inflammation, and causing weight gain.”

And because added sugars lack nutritional benefits, Ilardi and his coauthors note, the “depressogenic processes can be affected both by the relative absence of key nutrients and by the excessive presence of harmful foods.”

The team analyzed a wide range of research on the physiological and psychological effects of added sugar consumption, including the 69,954-­participant, three-year ­Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study; the 263,923-person NIH–AARP Diet and Health Study; and other large-scale international trials.

Researchers identified these depressogenic effects of added sugars:

  • Bodywide inflammation, which has been recognized as a “potent physiological trigger of depression.” It also leads to fatigue and sleep disruption, which contribute to poor mental health.

“A large subset of people with depression have high levels of systemic inflammation,” says Ilardi, author of The Depression Cure. “When we think about inflammatory disease, we think about things like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis — diseases with a high level of systemic inflammation. We don’t normally think about depression being in that category, but it turns out that it really is.

“Inflammatory hormones can directly push the brain into a state of severe depression. So, an inflamed brain is typically a depressed brain.”

  • Microbiome disruption that can lead to gut dysbiosis, an over­growth of harmful bacteria that’s been linked to depression and other psychological pathologies.

“Our bodies host over 10 trillion microbes, and many of them know how to hack into the brain,” Ilardi explains. “The symbiotic microbial species — the beneficial microbes —basically hack the brain to enhance our well-being. They want us to thrive so they can thrive.

“But there are also some opportunistic species that can be thought of as more purely parasitic — they don’t have our best interests in mind at all. Many of those parasitic microbes thrive on added sugars, and they can produce chemicals that push the brain [into] a state of anxiety and stress and depression.”

  • Insulin resistance that can reduce production of the energizing hormone needed to fuel the brain.
  • Other effects may include dopamine dysregulation, oxidative stress, and the production of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, toxic byproducts of sugar metabolism.

(For more on the dangers of added sugars, see “Sugar Shock”.)

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Health & Fitness

How to Pack a Gym Bag



Forgetting your socks or weightlifting gloves can derail your workout, especially if you’re new to exercise or entrenched in a rigid program. To stay the course, having the right supplies is key to your success. To help you prepare, we asked Life Time personal trainers Anna Taylor, NASM, USAW, Alpha, and Bryce Morris, MS, NASM, ISSA, Alpha, for their favorite gym-bag essentials.


  • Stretchy, flexible, sweat-wicking shirt and pants or shorts
  • Socks (two pairs)
  • Undergarments, sports bra, support, or protection
  • Cross-trainers or sport-specific shoes
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Flip-flops for showering
  • Hair binders, deodorant, toiletries
  • Sports watch or heart-rate monitor
  • MP3 player/phone and earbuds or headphones for music

Nice to Haves

  • Swimsuit for the whirlpool or sauna
  • Wet/dry bag for swimsuit or sweaty clothes postworkout
  • Razors: Some clubs offer them in the locker room, but bring a reusable one to cut down on waste
  • Odor-absorbing charcoal sticks to keep your bag smelling fresh
  • Shaker bottle with premeasured protein powder so you can add water and refuel

Coach Anna also suggests:

  • A protein-packed bar to eat before your workout
  • Bear KompleX Hand Grips for pull-ups
  • A weightlifting belt for lifts at 80 percent or more of max

Coach Bryce also suggests:

  • An extra T-shirt
  • A RPM speed rope for double-unders and conditioning
  • A BCAA and L-glutamine supplement to support recovery after your session

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