Thursday, November 29, 2007

Low fat moods

These two papers caught my eye. The first is observational and uses very limited in data points but clearly suggests the hypothesis that sugar is a cause of major depression. The biochemistry is supportive of this, a high carbohydrate meal increases blood insulin, which increases blood tryptophan, which increases brain serotonin.

So you fall asleep after a high carb meal.

I used to be a standing joke in our family before I went LC. One of the joys of avoiding rice and pasta was getting my evenings back. The aftermath of sleeping through a serotonon spike is that about three to six hours later your brain serotonin plummets and you can't sleep. Ah, those nights of looking at the clock every five minutes from 2am to 4.30 am. The switch to LC not only gave a good night's sleep every night but I woke feeling good each morning. That's better.

So I find it highly plausible that sugar causes depression. Kick your serotonin system often enough and it will go on strike. Or develop "serotonin resistance" comparable to "insulin resistance".

The second paper looks at the effect of a low fat diet on mood. The abstract is self explanatory and here are the important lines:

"ratings of anger-hostility significantly increased in the intervention group after 1 month on the low-fat diet"

and this

"The results suggest that a change in dietary fat content from 41 to 25% energy may have adverse effects on mood"

One month is VERY rapid for a mood disorder to emerge. Healthy volunteers are not usually prone to anger hostility episodes. This is an intervention study with the subjects acting as their own controls. It's good.

Next time you get carved up in a minor road rage episode, just ask yourself if the perpetrator will have had bacon and eggs fried in butter for breakfast. Alternatively perhaps a bowl of sugared cereals lubricated with skim milk followed by toast and jam lubricated with a low fat spread. Probably has a heart problem and is on a statin too. Anger hostility rating? Is this problem growing?

Dr Ancel Keys again?

Peter

Obviously what is missing from the second study is a period when the subjects ate 80% fat in their diet. I assure you it feels good.

3 comments:

Bruce K said...

"So you fall asleep after a high carb meal."

Perhaps you should qualify this - I don't fall asleep after a high carb meal. Maybe the carbs I eat are not problematic. Maybe you're sensitive due to previous dietary abuse. Also maybe I'm more active, so I can use the carbs faster. I don't just sit. I have a special chair that lets me bounce, rock, and lean while I sit. It's sort of like a toad stool on a car shock absorber. I've also based my exercise on short bursts of high intensity activity. Clarence Bass's essays on interval training and Art DeVany's "evolutionary fitness" led my way many years ago.

Refined sugar may indeed have a big role in depression, but most people eat it in the context of PUFA oils, hydrogenated oils, and all kinds of other junk. It's hard to put all of the blame on sugar. The modern diet is basically 50-80% junk. Maybe you were tired from eating low-fat junk food, not the carbs per se. I don't get tired from carbs, nor do I have insomnia after eating them. I think there are other factors here.

Eating any food that your body does not like will cause moods. The body could decide it doesn't like even a low-carb food. Some, like eggs, are particularly risky. Naturally, some foods (like gluten) are more likely to cause trouble. It's not clear if low-fat caused the hostility or the types of carbs being eaten.

Elton said...

Hi Peter,
I have been slowly making my way through your blog and enjoying it.

I had to make a comment on this post because depression was the initial issue that led me to a LC diet.

Previously I would snack all day on chips and crackers. Being in computers it was easy to just have a bag of chips at my desk. I also had a depressed mental state and a generally bad out look on life.

A good friend was studying nutrition and mentioned how all these crappy foods can effect your mental state. I never had a weight problem, so I didn't think much of what I ate, but I also didn't realize that what I ate could effect my mental state.

My wife (gf at the time) is from Poland and turned me on to her Optimal Diet.

It was hard for me to give up the chips and crackers, as I was seriously addicted to them, but once I did I noticed an immediate change in my attitude. So much so that I didn't believe it was from my diet. So I started to eat chips again and again had moments of depression.

So my personal experience does verify this study, but I realize some may have different experiences.

Right now I am trying to develop a good argument for why a LC High SF diet is good and your Blog is a great resource.

trinkwasser said...

I used to get this in spades - in my case I suspect reactive hypoglycemia. I produce little or no Phase 1 insulin, so my dietician-approved high carb low fat diet was sending my BG high about a hour after eating.

Then the Phase 2 would cut in, so by about 2 hours my BG was heading back to normal. But then the insulin wouldn't shut down so three or four hours out I'd drop my BG rapidly, maybe not to genuine hypo levels but the rapidity of the drop set off a dump of neuroendocrines including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, and often a liver dump of glucose which would send my BG back up without eating anything and set off a repeat of the process.

I can also see this effect in some relatives, who do all the "right things" like eating lots of Healthy Whole Grains and doing lots of cardio, one in his sixties, one in her thirties. In retrospect I was doing this since childhood.

These were all put down to "psychiatric" symptoms or hypochondria, but curiously (or not) reducing my carbs to anatomically appropriate levels and fuelling myself on fat (and generating the glucose I actually require from protein) has levelled out my BG, insulin levels, energy levels and mood swings. Who knew?