High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women's Health Initiative

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug;102(2):454-63. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103846. Epub 2015 Jun 24.

Abstract

Background: The consumption of sweetened beverages, refined foods, and pastries has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of depression in longitudinal studies. However, any influence that refined carbohydrates has on mood could be commensurate with their proportion in the overall diet; studies are therefore needed that measure overall intakes of carbohydrate and sugar, glycemic index (GI), and glycemic load.

Objective: We hypothesized that higher dietary GI and glycemic load would be associated with greater odds of the prevalence and incidence of depression.

Design: This was a prospective cohort study to investigate the relations between dietary GI, glycemic load, and other carbohydrate measures (added sugars, total sugars, glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, starch, carbohydrate) and depression in postmenopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study at baseline between 1994 and 1998 (n = 87,618) and at the 3-y follow-up (n = 69,954).

Results: We found a progressively higher dietary GI to be associated with increasing odds of incident depression in fully adjusted models (OR for the fifth compared with first quintile: 1.22; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.37), with the trend being statistically significant (P = 0.0032). Progressively higher consumption of dietary added sugars was also associated with increasing odds of incident depression (OR for the fifth compared with first quintile: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.07, 1.41; P-trend = 0.0029). Higher consumption of lactose, fiber, nonjuice fruit, and vegetables was significantly associated with lower odds of incident depression, and nonwhole/refined grain consumption was associated with increased odds of depression.

Conclusions: The results from this study suggest that high-GI diets could be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women. Randomized trials should be undertaken to examine the question of whether diets rich in low-GI foods could serve as treatments and primary preventive measures for depression in postmenopausal women.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00000611.

Keywords: depression; epidemiology; glycemic index; glycemic load; postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / adverse effects*
  • Postmenopause
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology

Substances

  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Nutritive Sweeteners

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00000611

Grant support