The Unexpected Evil Lurking Behind the Ghoul of Halloween: Sugar’s Link to Depression

Back in the day, the scariest thing about Halloween for parents of sugar-happy kids was dental decay. Some parents went as far as giving out toothbrushes instead of candy. Boo indeed! But as we get to know more and more about the long- and short-term effects of our overindulgences in sugar, dental decay doesn’t sound quite so scary.

Halloween’s origins are founded in the end of the harvest, a sweet time of year.  “The ancient peoples of western Europe knew this as Samhain – meaning literally “summer’s end”, but was actually their New Year. As one year transitioned to the next they thought the separation between the world’s of the living and the dead was at its least, and so the traditions of either gift-giving to appease the spirits (trick-or-treats), and the rabble-rousing (to ward off the spirits) has evolved into own modern day celebrations.” https://www.fairbanksmuseum.org/eye-on-the-sky

It makes sense that these spirit-appeasing gifts morphed into sugar candies, I mean who wants to schlep around the harvest? But for those affected by depression (and we’re just entering the Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD season), the sugar binge associated with Trick or Treat is not all it’s cracked up to be. The link between sugar and depression is gaining legitimacy.

Even though we typically crave sweets and carbs as the winter approaches, those cravings may exacerbate mood swings, depression, and SAD. A recent article in Psychology Today explains the link between sugar and depression this way: a new study suggests that “sugar may contribute to depression in men…The study tracked the diets and medical conditions of 8,000 people over 22 years (all part of a larger study called the Whitehall Study II) using surveys about diet and doctors’ visits completed every few years. By keeping tabs on what the participants ate and the sorts of conditions they were seeing doctors to treat, the researchers could analyze correlations between diet and health outcomes. The one that popped out is that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression in a five-year period than men who ate 40 grams or less.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201709/the-link-between-sugar-and-depression-what-you-should-know)

It goes on to explain that “over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, upping the chances of outcomes like depression and anxiety. In particular, it seems excess sugar impacts dopamine–the neurotransmitter that fuels the brain’s reward system–not unlike a potent narcotic. Since addiction and mood disorders are closely associated, it may be that sugar plays a role similar to cocaine in powering the mood roller-coaster. And sugar is increasingly linked to cellular inflammation, which more evidence is revealing as a likely culprit in the onset of depression.”

Now that’s scary!