A new study warns that eating foods high in refined carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice, could cause mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms of depression in postmenopausal women. James Gangwisch, PhD, and colleagues in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), investigated the dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, types of carbohydrates consumed, and depression in data from more than 70,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1994 and 1998.
Consumption of carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels to varying degrees, depending on the type of food ingested.
The more highly refined the carbohydrate, the higher its score on the glycemic index (GI) scale. The GI scale, which goes from 0-100, measures the amount of sugar found in the blood after eating. Refined foods such as white bread, white rice, and soda trigger a hormonal response in the body to reduce blood sugar levels.
This response may also cause or make worse mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms of depression.
Progressively higher dietary GI scores and consumption of added sugars and refined grains, the investigators found, were associated with increased risk of new-onset depression in post-menopausal women. Greater consumption of dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables and non-juice fruits was associated with decreased risk.
This suggests that dietary interventions could serve as treatments and preventive measures for depression. Further study is needed to examine the potential of this novel option for treatment and prevention, and to see if similar results are found in the broader population.