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Drinking This Beverage Could Be Increasing Your Anxiety, Study Finds

Hannah Frye
Author:
September 13, 2023
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Attractive mature woman drinking soda
Image by tirc83 / iStock
September 13, 2023

Coffee can get a bad rap for causing nervousness and jitters, but a new study finds that another popular drink may be much more anxiety-inducing. Here's what to know about how soft drinks may trigger anxiety symptoms and how to adjust your beverage lineup accordingly. 

Soda increases anxiety symptoms more than coffee 

A new study published in Nutrients found that soft drinks were associated with a higher level of anxiety than coffee or tea1. In the research, those who drank two or more cans of carbonated soda each day had more severe anxiety symptoms than those who drank less than one per week.

The participant pool included 1,025 people between the ages of 18 and 75 from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain, all of whom with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 40 kg/m2 (clinically considered overweight or obese2) and had some symptoms of depression. Data was pulled from the European depression prevention trial MooDFOOD. More frequent soft drink consumption seemed to align with more severe anxiety symptoms.

"No relationship was found between coffee and tea consumption and the level of depression and anxiety in this specific population in any of the amounts of consumption analyzed," researchers state. In other words, drinking coffee and tea wasn't associated with anxiety in this particular study—but that doesn't mean some people don't feel anxious after drinking caffeine. (Your reaction to it is partially dictated by genetics3.)

Because this study was done on a smaller subgroup of individuals with specific BMIs and preexisting depressive symptoms, the finding isn't necessarily representative of the general population. But that doesn't mean it's not important or relevant. This study reinforces the idea that what we eat and drink has a major impact on our mental health, and it serves as another piece of the puzzle of how nutrition and mood disorders may be connected. As anxiety continues to surge worldwide, the more information we have on mitigating it naturally, the better.

What to drink instead of soda

Limiting soda (and artificial sugar, in general, for that matter) isn't easy, but it may help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to this new research. Here are some other beverage options to consider if you want to spice up your daily water intake with a flavorful feature: 

The list goes on. The important part is to limit soda when you can and find replacements that bring you joy (and make you feel good). 

Just note that diet sodas sweetened with alternatives like aspartame don't make the list. As nutritional psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, M.D., recently shared with mindbodygreen: "Aspartame has been shown to inhibit neurotransmitter function4—that is, the action of the chemical compounds in our brain that govern mood—and induce feelings of depression and anxiety over time. In addition, recent research5 suggests that exposure to aspartame 'produces changes in the expression of genes regulating excitation-inhibition balance in the amygdala, a brain region that regulates anxiety and fear.'"

The takeaway

A new study found that soft drinks increased anxiety more than coffee or tea in adults with a BMI between 25 and 40 kg/m2. While these results can't be applied directly to everyone without further testing, this study does add to a larger pool of research suggesting that soft drinks aren't the healthiest option out there for mental health. Looking for a more mood-supportive swap? Here are 19 healthy drinks and functional beverages to consider.

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