In the early 1990s, the largest ever clinical trial of diet and weight was conducted. It was called The Women’s Health Initiative which involved around 50,000 women and ran for 8 years. Its goal was to prove the benefits of a low fat diet. There were two groups, one of almost 30,000 women were free to continue eating the way they were, while another of almost 20,000 women, were put onto a low fat diet. The low fat group were given the very best chance of succeeding with constant advice, counselling and guidance on what they could eat. The control group were given minimal guidance and were instructed to carry on as they were. It was strongly assumed that with all these factors in place, it would be a resounding victory for those extolling the virtues of a low fat diet. The results however, showed otherwise.
Results were tallied up in relation to breast and colorectal cancer, heart attacks, strokes, weight gain and loss, cholesterol levels and other measures of health. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed no benefits for a low fat diet. There were no gains to protection from the two cancers and after 8 years, the weight of the low fat group was generally the same as the group who were following their usual diets.
Now a group of researches have taken a closer look at this study and tried to extrapolate some more information. They have found an interesting outcome.
Their study was set up to see if there was an observational link between an increase of refined carbohydrates and depression in the post menopausal women who took part.
Turns out that: “progressively higher consumption of dietary added sugars was associated with increasing odds of incident depression and nonwhole/refined grain consumption was also associated with increased odds of depression.
And even more telling was that: higher consumption of fiber, nonjuice fruit, lactose and vegetables was significantly associated with lower odds of incident depression.”
We know that correlation does not necessarily mean causation and the authors do call for more randomized control trials exploring this area, but many of you will already feel the positive mental benefits of lowering your refined carbohydrates like added sugar. And while depression is a very complicated illness that can involve a lot more than just food, it is exciting that more scientists are beginning to look into this area of food and mental health in more depth.
Here is the study for those interested.