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Metabolic Health: Effect on Depression & Anxiety

Metabolism is the process of how the body converts the food and liquids a person consumes into energy. Underlying metabolic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes are usually linked to unhealthy metabolism. It is backed by research that metabolic health is a critical factor in determining a person’s quality of life. 

Various lifestyle components such as dietary patterns, physical activity, sedentary time and other lifestyle habits influence metabolic health. Food choices, metabolism, gut microbiota, exercise, sleep, stress, age, sex, and genes also have an impact on metabolic health. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, you may be metabolically unhealthy, which can cause several medical complications. 

One of the best ways to improve your metabolic health is to use HealthifyPro 2.0 by one of India’s leading digital health and wellness platforms, HealthifyMe. It comes with a metabolic panel, CGM, personalised coach consultation and AI-enabled backend. The combination of real-time data points and coach consultation based on actual blood-glucose readings through a wearable device BIOS provide the users with insights on what they can do to improve their health, like a better diet plan, lifestyle, behaviour, etc.

There is no single definition of being ‘metabolically unhealthy’. However, a collection of disorders known as metabolic syndrome is often linked to the emergence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, according to research, depression and anxiety issues may sometimes be due to metabolic syndrome or poor metabolic health. Thus, it is evident that blood sugar affects mental health and mood disorders since it is a crucial indicator of metabolic health. 

Studies have shown that unmanaged blood glucose levels and insulin resistance are more likely to lead to mental and mood disorders. Such a situation occurs because diabetes slows metabolism by lowering insulin levels, which prevents the body from storing food-derived energy for later use. For those who are insulin resistant, prolonged overexposure to glucose and various other elements causes the body to become ‘numb’ to insulin, which stimulates cells to remove glucose from the blood circulation. 

According to research, people with these diseases are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety. Depression is twice as common in those with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is crucial to comprehend how mood disorders and glucose levels are related. 

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels indicates good metabolic health, significantly impacting mental health. There are several ways in which metabolic health, particularly blood sugar, might affect mood disorders like depression. 

Impact of Insulin Resistance On Brain’s Emotional Regulation

The emotional regulatory centres of the brain generate insulin receptors, which enable the cells in the surrounding region to take in and use glucose for energy. In the case of insulin resistance, the brain is unable to use glucose to make energy. This lead to what we call “mitochondrial dysfunction”. As a result, dopamine, popularly known as the “feel-good” hormone, is produced less frequently. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that aids in fostering pleasant emotions. Thus, in such individuals, insulin resistance may result in depressive-like behaviour.  Here’s detailed research on insulin resistance and mood disorder for your better understanding. 

Decreased Brain Cell Growth Due To High Blood Sugar

The process through which new brain cells get produced is known as neurogenesis. According to research, diabetes impairs neurogenesis. Mitochondrial dysfunction is most commonly the cause of such a situation. The cell’s mitochondria are responsible for converting sugar into energy. However, insulin resistance prevents the brain from using glucose to make energy.

Given that studies link it to treating depression, neurogenesis is essential. In other words, new neurons can treat mood disorders like depression. Adult-generated neurons are necessary for mood regulation and antidepressant efficacy.

Impact of Insulin On Chronic Stress Hormones

According to research, insulin resistance makes people’s prolonged stress worse. Such a situation is because insulin can increase several stress-related hormones. As a result, insulin resistance in the brain can hamper the negative feedback on the pathways in the brain that regulate stress hormones. Because of insulin instability and elevated stress, a vicious cycle gets created, implying that insulin resistance may exacerbate depression by altering the brain’s natural stress response.

Excessive Sugar Intake and Depression

Several studies have found a correlation between higher sugar intake and a higher incidence of depression. In some populations, excessively sweet foods, drinks, and added sugars have caused long-term physiological (type-2 diabetes) and psychological (depression) issues. There are several causes for this. First, neurogenesis used to treat depression encourages the decreased use of high-sugar diets. Furthermore, eating carbohydrates is linked to elevated levels of circulating inflammatory markers, which may hamper mood. Finally, sugar addiction can change dopaminergic neurotransmission processes. It links excessive sugar consumption to depression.

The HealthifyMe Note

There could be several links between mood disorders and blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance causes brain damage and mood disturbances. Excessive intake of sweet foods and added sugars causes type 2 diabetes and depression. Type 2 diabetes, a sign of poor metabolic health, must be avoided by maintaining normal blood sugar levels. You have to achieve good metabolic health to prevent mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

According to research, patients with type 2 diabetes have an anxiety disorder occurrence that is almost 60% higher than that of the general population. Therefore, type 2 diabetes, a sign of poor metabolic health, must be prevented by maintaining correct blood sugar levels and excellent metabolic health to prevent mood disorders like anxiety. 

Impact of Insulin Resistance on Anxiety

Insulin resistance has detrimental impacts on the brain and can cause anxiety.  It results in mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain. Studies show that mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to increased anxiety. Such a situation arises due to a general lack of desire and self-esteem caused by a decline in cellular energy production in critical neural circuits of the brain. Therefore, anxious people frequently exhibit these characteristics. Research substantiates that less anxious animals have improved mitochondrial function in an area of the brain essential for motivating behaviour and making an effort.

Extreme Dips in Blood Glucose 

High sugar consumption may cause hypoglycemia, or severe drops in blood sugar levels, by causing an inflated insulin response. Such a condition may affect hormone levels and perhaps affect mood or anxiety. It happens because your body strives to raise blood sugar when it falls. As a result, it releases adrenaline, a “fight or flight” hormone that instructs your liver to produce more glucose, among other things (blood sugar). Additionally, adrenaline increases your heart rate and causes you to sweat, making you irritable and anxious.

Reducing Anxiety by Decreasing Carbohydrate Intake

Nutrients and calorie intake have an impact on metabolic health. Therefore, nutrition plays a vital role in reducing anxiety. Such an impact results from following a diet high in protein, vegetables, healthy fats, seeds, beans, and fruit. These diets don’t tend to raise glucose levels as much instead of one that predominantly consists of refined carbohydrates. So, increasing your protein, fat, and fibre intake can significantly reduce your anxiety symptoms and the frequency and intensity of your hypoglycemic symptoms.

The HealthifyMe Note

The most effective approach to managing metabolic health is by bringing lifestyle changes. Simple lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly, can help you avoid developing metabolic syndrome or diseases like heart disease or diabetes.

Lifestyle Modifications To Reduce Depression and Anxiety

The most critical and successful approach to managing metabolic health and maintaining a healthy body is lifestyle-oriented change. According to research, a person’s general metabolic health gets influenced by lifestyle choices. However, the fundamental difficulty with such intervention is maintaining lasting behavioural changes to produce positive outcomes. 

One can, nevertheless, achieve excellent metabolic health if they are persistent and committed to leading a healthy and productive life. Simple lifestyle adjustments, such as healthy eating habits, controlling stress levels, and engaging in regular physical activity, can help you avoid developing metabolic syndrome or metabolic diseases like heart disease or diabetes.

Regular Exercise or Physical Activity

Exercise is effective in treating or avoiding anxiety and depression. It is an accessible, inexpensive, and non-invasive treatment option for people with mental illnesses. In addition, exercise is a good treatment plan because consistent physical activity and exercise can significantly enhance metabolic health. 

During exercise, positive temporary physiological changes occur, which are great for avoiding diabetes and heart disease. For instance, exercise mobilises the stored glucose and hence the energy demand is met by absorbing glucose from the blood. Moreover, there will be increased cardiac output. It also results in dopamine release, inducing the feeling of happiness. Even if you don’t like to exercise, you can participate in some physical activities that produce similar results. Some suggested activities are dancing, swimming and biking.

Reducing Excessive Sugar Intake and Consuming Anti-Inflammatory Food

Several studies link anxiety to eating processed foods and having high blood sugar levels. Eating a lot of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, impairing mitochondrial function. As a result, cutting out sugary or processed food and drinks can significantly aid in the battle against depression and anxiety. 

Additionally, research points to a possible link between diet and an increased risk of depression and anxiety influencing inflammation in the body. Such a situation arises due to the pro-inflammatory molecule, ‘TNF𝛂”, which is higher in diabetic individuals and lowers serotonin levels in the brain. A chemical called serotonin is essential for elevating mood and decreasing anxiety. Therefore, food with anti-inflammatory effects can reduce symptoms and protect against mental illness. Anti-inflammatory foods include:

TomatoesGreen Leafy Vegetables like spinachFatty fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acidsNuts like almonds and walnutsFruits like blueberries, cherries and oranges

The severe lack of nutrients like protein, crucial vitamins & minerals, and fatty acids is a prominent aspect of the diets of patients with mental problems. Studies have shown that daily supplements of these essential nutrients can frequently help patients feel better since they transform into neurotransmitters. It lessens depression and anxiety, provides essential amino acids (proteins) and serves vital roles in maintaining good metabolic health. 

Essential amino acids and vitamins and minerals are abundant in red meat. However, one should eat red meat in controlled quantities. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can also aid in treating depressive illnesses. Nuts and fatty fish have large amounts of them. Because they reduce the prevalence of diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and cardiovascular disease, protein and lipids promote metabolic health, consequently favouring mental health.

Managing Stress

Concentration, problem-solving, decision-making, and other critical human capacities are all severely hampered by stress. Moreover, according to studies, it also causes conditions and symptoms like anxiety and depression. Stress puts bodily systems under strain to cope with environmental demands, adversely impacting metabolic health. 

Managing stress can improve metabolic health, reducing susceptibility to anxiety and depression. However, when chronic stress goes untreated, it can result in severe problems to metabolic health. Prolonged stress on bodily functioning, leads to disorders like depression and anxiety. 

Research finds that stress might lead to unhealthy behaviours such as poor eating habits or a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, they are known to worsen diabetes and affect metabolic health. Therefore, it becomes crucial, especially for people already afflicted by bad metabolic health to manage their stress better. 

Some suggestions to manage stress are:

Maintaining healthy food habitsExercising regularlySocialising to connect with your communityMaking time for hobbies

Conclusion

There exists a close connection between mood problems, blood sugar levels, and metabolic health and thus monitoring glucose levels is beneficial. It helps maintain healthy metabolic health to have to keep mood disorders and mental health issues at bay. Even though dietary and lifestyle modifications play a pivotal role, they may only be able to address a single aspect of these disorders. Continuous glucose monitoring and adopting healthy lifestyle adjustments can be crucial in this case to make own nudge towards a better self in a wholesome manner. Nutrition and lifestyle are the main contributors to increased glucose levels and tendencies to develop insulin resistance and diabetes.

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