Tips to Grow Younger

Sugar's link to depression


Last month I talked about sugar and your pineal gland. This month it's sugar and depression.

Many doctors agree that the most damaging thing we can eat is sugar. It is a major cause of inflammation and studies show that individuals with inflammatory illnesses - autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer - often struggle with depression. Up to 70 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus, experience depression.

The spiking of blood sugar followed by a crash can also increase the risk of depression, according to research by the National Institutes of Health. Interesting data shows that countries with high sugar intake also have a high rate of depression.

How many grams of sugar are you eating a day? Numbers can be important, but few are more important to your preventive health than the number of grams of sugar you're consuming each day. I say "grams" rather than "teaspoons" because you're probably aware of how many teaspoons of sugar you put into your coffee or oatmeal, but you may not be mindful of the sugar you consume in bottled drinks and packaged food, and those show the amount of sugar in grams.

To convert grams into teaspoons, divide the number of grams by four. For a drink that contains 39 grams of sugar (typical of one small 12-ounce can of soda), the equivalent is almost 10 teaspoons.

Dr. Terry Grossman, a doctor who is also my friend, a bestselling author and one of the world's leading anti-aging physicians, gave me a goal of no more than 15 to 20 grams of sugar a day. In order to avoid rapid glucose fluctuations in my bloodstream, he recommended 5 or 6 grams at the end of each meal, rather than all 15 to 20 grams at one time.

I decided to aim for that six days a week. Sometimes I go over 20 grams; once in a blue moon I go under. On the seventh day, I allow myself a break by being gently aware of my sugar intake that day, but I don't count grams. I normally don't even take that break, but it's good for the soul to know that I have that freedom.

Ask your healthcare practitioner what your daily limit of sugar should be, and if you should count fresh fruit or not. I don't count fruit as part of my maximum daily grams because the fiber in fresh fruit can mitigate the sugar (unlike juiced fruit which has the fiber extracted). I also value the nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I do, however, limit my intake to avoid spikes in my blood sugar.

Some fruits contain more sugar than others, so for a list of fruits ranked by their sugar content, go to and search for "Fruits with the most and least sugar." Remember, too, that pizza, pasta, pretzels and other foods made with white flour metabolize as sugar, so cut down on those also.

Ellen Wood of Questa is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of "Think and Grow Young: Powerful Steps to Create a Life of Joy." Contact Ellen at