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Sugar and salt


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I wondered if anyone knows much about any correlation between sugar, salt and depression.

In my (very limited) research I see that sugar is perhaps an enhancer of depression. I have always felt my body doesn't tolerate sugar too well when it comes to weight. More so than fat. Ie. I could eat cheese and be ok but sugary cakes and sweets would make me put on weight or fizzy drinks which have no fat. But I've never noticed whether it has worsened my moods. Not sure how easy it is to have a sugar free diet or whether it's worth it.

And salt, I read, is natures antidepressant. I found this out when I realised I always had cravings for salty foods in my worse low moods. But in this day and age of being told not to eat too much salt it's hard to know whether to add more salt to my diet.

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I can't quite see how salt would elevate mood unless you were deficient (like after vigorous exercise, when you have vomiting and diarrhoea, or anything else which has made you dehydrated. This is why sports drinks and rehydration fluids have salts in them, to put back what you've lost.) Salts such as sodium, calcium, chloride and potassium are imperative for nerve conduction and hence vital.

I went and read the studies and they were done on rats that had been made salt-deficient which made them exhibit signs of depression such as less and slower activity, much less interest in rat-enjoyable activities. Then they fed them salt and they improved. It seems to me that extrapolating from that to 'salt is a natural anti-depressant', is a bit dubious. If you're short on some salts, it would definitely be the case, but if you have enough of all of them, surely it would just make you thirsty!


When food is digested it makes your BG (blood glucose) rise which provokes an insulin response from your pancreas to lower the BG so it stays between a certain range. Insulin lowers your BG by sending it into storage (as we know!!!)

Some foods are digested faster than others . The Glycaemic Index is a measure of how quickly the food enters the blood stream. Refined, processed, sugary foods (white bread, sweets, cakes etc.) have a high glycaemic index as they are quickly digested (the sugar 'rush' or sugar 'high' which initially elevates mood, but not for long). When your BG rises rapidly the pancreas sends out lots of insulin - and often it overshoots, so there's too much insulin for the amount of sugar. Then your BG falls below the range. Having a low BG feels really crappy. If you're already depressed it would make you feel even crappier.

Proteins and fast are digested much slower, which is why cheese doesn't make you feel bad (although cheese is high in fat so you need to watch that). However sugar is also unfairly demonised. Current guidelines do not require diabetics (or anyone) to have a sugar-free diet. Sugar in small amounts, taken together with other foods, will not provoke the extreme BG/insulin response. One spoon of sugar in your one cup of morning coffee is not harmful if you have it with a protein breakfast (not sugary cereal!) as the protein will slow down the absorption of the sugar. Coffee and donuts is a bad breakfast, avoid at all costs.)

Whole, unprocessed foods have a low glycaemic index (plus nutrients!) and are the way to go. Fibre slows down the digestion too, making the BG rise more moderately so the pancreas doesn't release too much insulin. The dietary recommendation is a low-fat, low GI diet, which is healthy for everyone. No more separate meals for diabetics. (TOOOO many docs are still living in the Ark, unfortunately.)


Brought to you by a diabetic educator and the mom of a Type 1 diabetic child dx'ed at age 8, now 16. :D


As an aside, I once followed a paediatric endocrinologist's guidelines for taking a carefully measured dose of insulin (over and above my own insulin) so I could experience hypoglycaemia (low BG) and know what my daughter goes through (it's safe because your body works normally and corrects it before it becomes dangerous). It was awful. I became very weak, shaky, sweaty, shakey, my mood crashed, I was ravenously hungry and I got a mother of a migraine headache. ICK! J. was leaping around going "Yes, you see, you see! That's how it feels! That's how I get! Now you know!" so it was a very worthwhile exercise for both of us. My poor lamb... :D

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