How eating chocolate can make you depressed … but only if you're a man

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Reaching for chocolate or biscuits as a way of cheering yourself up may be doing more harm than good, researchers revealed today.

They found an increased likelihood of anxiety or depression long after the “sugar rush” has passed.

However the findings, by University College London, only apply to men —with researchers puzzled as to why women are not also similarly at risk.

The study found that healthy men who consumed more than 67g of sugar a day — roughly equivalent to a Starbucks Frappuccino or two cans of Coke — were 23 per cent more likely to have a common mental disorder five years later than those who had below-average consumption. Lead author Anika Knüppel, of UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said: “People experiencing low mood may eat sugary foods in the hope of alleviating negative feelings. 

“Our study suggests a high intake of sugary foods is more likely to have the opposite effect on mental health in the long term.” 

She told the Standard: “It’s fine to have a cake, and I’m a fan myself of cake. But if you treat it like a treat, that is the best way overall to reduce your sugar intake.”

The study, published in Scientific Reports, used data from the Whitehall II cohort to analyse sugar intake and mental disorders in more than 5,000 men and 2,000 women between 1983 and 2013. 

The cohort was set up to examine reasons for social inequalities in health. More than 10,000 participants were recruited from Civil Service staff from 1985 to 1988 and have been checked up on over the decades since. 

Previous studies have found an increased risk of depression following higher consumption of sugar. This is the first to rule out “reverse causation” — namely, that men and women with mental disorders were more likely to consume high levels of sugar. 

Last year the Government announced a tax on sugary soft drinks, to be introduced from 2018, to tackle soaring rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes. 

Professor Eric Brunner, senior author of the paper, said: “Our findings provide yet further evidence that sugary foods and drinks are best avoided. The new sugar tax on soft drinks is a step in the right direction.”@RossLydall

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