Mental Health and Obesity

smartshape obesity and mental health

Depression and anxiety are two leading mental health problems that have seen a dramatic rise in incidence in recent years. Worldwide, depression is now the leading cause of mental health and disability, with rates rising 18 percent in the decade between 2005 and 2015.

Insulin resistance is a driving factor in obesity and Type II diabetes and based on the evidence, it plays a significant role in your mental health as well. After all, your physical and psychological health are closely linked.

A key dietary culprit is sugar, and research has repeatedly found that high-sugar diets which increase insulin resistance can also encourage depression and anxiety. Among them:

  • Research published in 2002, which correlated per capita consumption of sugar with prevalence of major depression in six countries, found “a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression.”
  • In 2011, Spanish researchers linked depression specifically to consumption of baked goods. Those who ate the most baked goods had a 38 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate the least.
  • A 2016 study found a strong link between diets high in processed foods, sweetened beverages and refined grains, and depression in post-menopausal women. The higher a woman’s dietary glycemic index, the higher her risk of depression. Diets high in whole fruit, fiber, vegetables and lactose were associated with lowered odds of depression.
  • A 2017 study found that men who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years compared to those who ate less than 40 grams of sugar per day.

Sugar is also a mediator of chronic inflammation which has been identified as a major factor in depression. The good news is that insulin resistance and obesity can be treated with bariatric surgery procedures.

Here are 12 non-surgical suggestions to combat insulin resistance and with that, obesity, to support good mental health:

Dramatically reduce your sugar intake by replacing processed foods with real whole foods. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower odds of depression and anxiety, an effect ascribed to antioxidants that help combat inflammation.

Replace sugar and grain carbs with healthy fats. Examples include avocados, grass fed meats, pastured butter, organic pastured eggs, coconut oil, MCT oil, raw cacao butter and raw nuts.

Get regular exercise Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. Exercise creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.

Spend more time outdoors Spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors.

Listen to nature sounds Nature sounds have a distinct and powerful effect on your brain, lowering fight-or-flight instincts, activating your rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system and produce brain activity associated with outward-directed focus, a trait associated with a lower risk for depression and anxiety.

Practice proper breathing The way you breathe is intricately connected to your mental state. Anxiety is triggered by an imbalance of the ratio between carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen. Your breathing affects the ratio of these gases, and by learning proper breathing techniques, you can quite literally breathe your way into a calmer state of mind.

Get plenty of restorative sleep Sleep and depression are intimately linked. In fact, a sleep disorder is part of the symptom complex that makes a diagnosis of depression. Ideally, get eight hours of sleep each night, and address factors that impede good sleep.

Address negative emotions It’s helpful to view depression as a sign that your body and life are out of balance, It is a message telling you that negative feelings and emotions are dominating your mood, and you need to regain a sense of balance.

Optimize your gut health Your mental health is closely linked to your gut health. A number of studies have confirmed gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression. To nourish your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and traditionally fermented foods. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi, kefir and natto.

Optimize your vitamin D with sensible sun exposure Studies have shown vitamin D deficiency can predispose you to depression, and that depression responds favorably to optimizing your vitamin D levels. The best way to get more Vitamin D is by getting sensible sun exposure.

Optimize your omega-3 The animal-based omega-3 fat DHA is perhaps the single most important nutrient for optimal brain function and prevention of depression. While you can obtain DHA from krill or fish oil, it is far better to obtain it from clean, low-mercury fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and fish roe.

Increase your vitamin B intake Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, can contribute to depression and is a very common but undiagnosed deficiency.


If you’d like to learn more about how a bariatric procedure might help you to control your insulin levels and in turn improve your mental health, get in touch with one of our Program Advisors today at (888) 278-7952 or Connect through our website at