Artificial Sweeteners and Depression

If you’ve ever had a bad day and reached for sweets, you’re not alone.  Many of us might want something sweet but also don’t want to ingest all the carbs or calories, so we reach for something artificially sweetened.  Well, bad news: one study has found that artificial sweeteners may make your bad day worse.  High use of artificial sweetener has been shown to increase your risk of depression.  Let’s discuss the details.

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Artificial Sweeteners and Depression

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Diet Drinks and Depression: Is There a Connection?

Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio. And there was recently a study I got this link from the video, but it doesn’t seem to be correct – Krystal) published that showed a connection between diet drinks and depression. Those who drank four or more diet drinks per day had a 31% increased risk of depression.

So how do we account for this? Well, if you viewed my video on depression, you would see I present a five-point causal model of depression. One of the points is neurotoxins, or things that can cause brain damage.

And while controversial, it has been suggested that artificial sweeteners may cause damage to the brain. Specifically, this is called excitotoxicity. And this is something that has been pioneered by a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon named Russell Blaylock.

Now in this report, it should be noted that we cannot make any definite conclusions. This is a preliminary study. And we cannot say for certain that this association is valid. But it certainly draws some light to the subject.

Now, to quote Dr. Chen, an investigator for the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, he says, “The research is preliminary. And more investigation into the topic is needed.” But he continues that “these findings are intriguing and are consistent with a small but growing number of studies linking artificial sweetened drinks to poor health.”

And it’s because of this that I want to share this information with you because in my personal experience I have seen some people notice fairly marked improvements in neurological or psychiatric complaints when going off artificial sweeteners.

Now, again, we don’t know that this association has certainly been proven just yet. But it certainly puts another piece of evidence into the pile supporting avoidance of artificial sweeteners.

You can find the link to this study in the show notes section. And if you have any questions, feel free to contact our office.


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What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.

Discussion

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18 thoughts on “Artificial Sweeteners and Depression

  1. The study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990543/) only lists “Possible answers were “didn’t drink coffee or tea”, “didn’t add any sweetener to coffee or tea”, “sugar or honey”, “Equal or aspartame”, “Saccharin or Sweet-n-Low”, and “other sweeteners”.” Stevia, sugar alcohols, etc aren’t mentioned. My dealings with migraineurs and epileptics removes sugar alcohols entirely. I’m even leery of them using stevia. Your thoughts?
    http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11727161,
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14634832
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15786825
    Many thanks

    1. Good question. Did you ever get an answer that addressed the different types of sweetners, including sugar alcohols?

  2. The study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990543/) only lists “Possible answers were “didn’t drink coffee or tea”, “didn’t add any sweetener to coffee or tea”, “sugar or honey”, “Equal or aspartame”, “Saccharin or Sweet-n-Low”, and “other sweeteners”.” Stevia, sugar alcohols, etc aren’t mentioned. My dealings with migraineurs and epileptics removes sugar alcohols entirely. I’m even leery of them using stevia. Your thoughts?
    http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11727161,
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14634832
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15786825
    Many thanks

    1. Good question. Did you ever get an answer that addressed the different types of sweetners, including sugar alcohols?

  3. I have suffered with PTSD depression and anxiety for nearly 10 years, 7 months ago I stopped using artificial sweeteners. When I did this I noticed an immediate improvement in major depressive symptoms. I still deal with some anxiety and a “low” mood. I’m thinking it might take several months for the brain to recover from many years of artificial sweetener use. I’m continuing to see an slow improvement, be it choppy at times. What are your thoughts about the brain needing many months or even a year or more to recover from damage caused by long term use of artificial sweeteners?

    1. Hi Randall,

      Glad to hear you’ve been improving! As you know, gut health and brain health are inextricably linked. While the gut can heal itself when you take out the things out that are harmful to it (i.e. artificial sweeteners), it’s possible that won’t be enough and further healing is needed. I’d recommend checking out the Great-in-8 protocol in Dr R’s book ‘Healthy Gut, Healthy You’ (which can be found here: drruscio.com/getgutbook) to hopefully achieve further improvements in your gut (and thereby mental) health. Good luck!

  4. This now confirms what I have been suspecting for a long time.A couple of years ago I was living in a log Cabin on a caravan site. In these Cabins or chalets they get very hot in the summer. I was on holiday from work doing things around the place and the sweat was pouring off me so, I popped to the shop and bought 10 bottles of tonic water with artificial sweeteners because I’m a diabetic, to keep cool in the fridge.I think it was aspartame in the tonic water..
    I drank these over a few days. After about 4 days had gone by I started to feel really depressed. Tears started streaming down my face and I couldn’t control them. Suicidal thoughts were going on in my head constantly. Nothing had changed in my life in fact things were better than ever. I always suspected it was the Tonic water but after googling it and finding nothing I put it down to the Aspartame affecting the amount of serotonin being produced in the gut which I understand is produced there before getting to the brain and multiplying there. If I’m wrong about that please let me know.I clicked on this link today because my daughter has been depressed for a few days and I knew she drinks diet coke. If anyone else has had similar happenings I’d be interested to know . Thanks, Geoff

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