New research claims that sweetened beverages increase the risk of depression in older adults -- and those drinks containing artificial sweeteners have an even worse effect on mood. Coffee, on the other hand, slightly lowers the chances of experiencing depression, CBS News reports.
"Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical -- and may have important mental -- health consequences," study author Dr. Honglei Chen, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health, said in a written statement.
Chen's study looked at data from 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 that was first collected from 1995 to 1996. Soda, tea, fruit punch and coffee consumption was recorded for all participants. Researchers followed up about 10 years later and asked the participants if they had been diagnosed with depression since 2000.
Out of all of the subjects, 11,311 had been diagnosed with depression. People who drank more than four cans of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to be depressed than those who did not drink sweetened drinks. Interestingly, diet soda drinkers had a higher chance of being diagnosed than their counterparts who drank the regular versions of soda, fruit punch and iced tea.
On the other hand, coffee drinkers who consumed four or more cups of coffee a day had a 10 percent lower chance of experiencing depression.
"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," Chen said, adding that "More research is needed to confirm these findings."
However, some doctors are skeptical about the connection, saying researchers got it backward.
"There is much more evidence that people who are depressed crave sweet things than there is to suggest that sweetened beverages cause depression," Dr. Kenneth M. Heilman, a professor of neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, told WebMD.
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego from March 16-23, but the results, which are considered preliminary, were released Jan. 9.