(NaturalNews) Sweetened beverages, particularly "diet" ones, may significantly increase your risk of depression, while coffee may slightly lower it, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and due to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting in March.
"Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk," researcher Honglei Chen said. "More research is needed to confirm these findings."
Between 1995 and 1996, the researchers surveyed 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 about their beverage consumption. Approximately 10 years later, the participants were asked whether they had received a diagnosis of depression since the year 2000.
The researchers found that people who drank four or more servings (cans or cups) of soda per day had a 30 percent higher risk of developing depression than those who did not drink soda. When the researchers looked at sugary and diet soda separately, they found that sugary soda was correlated with a 22 percent higher risk of depression, while diet soda was associated with a 31 percent higher risk.
Likewise, the risk of depression was 38 percent higher among those who drank four or more cans of fruit punch per day than among those who drank no fruit punch. It was 51 percent higher among those who drank four or more cans of diet fruit punch daily.
In contrast, the risk of depression among those who consumed four or more cups of coffee per day was approximately 10 percent lower than among those who did not drink coffee.
Important health consequences
The correlation between sweetened beverage consumption and depression remained significant even after the researchers accounted for potential confounding factors including age, body mass index (BMI), caloric intake, education, physical activity, smoking status, stressful life events and a history of depression.
The study's findings are consistent with those of a 2011 study, which found a correlation between higher coffee consumption and a lower risk of depression in women.
"Coffee contains large amounts of caffeine, which is a well-known brain stimulant," Chen noted, and this may partially explain the observed effect.
Earlier studies have also found a connection between sweetened beverage consumption and an elevated depression risk. "Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical - and may have important mental - health consequences," Chen said.
According to Euromonitor International, the United States has the highest per capita soda consumption in the world, with each person consuming an average of 170 liters per year. Mexico is ranked number two, with a per capita consumption of 146 liters per year, and is followed by Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with per capita consumptions of 127, 124 and 120 liters per year, respectively. The top three soda-consuming European nations are Belgium, Norway, and Ireland, whose residents consume an average of 108, 104, and 103 liters per year respectively.