Can a Lack of Carbohydrates Make You Moody?

By Rachel Nall

Your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars, which your cells then use for energy. However, your body stores excess carbohydrates as fats, which is why carbohydrates have a bad reputation among diet gurus, who propose low-carbohydrate diet like the Atkins approach. However, eating too few carbohydrates can have a negative effect on mood for some people.

The Serotonin Connection

The neurotransmitter serotonin is responsible for lifting your mood and making you feel happier. Serotonin production increases when you eat carbohydrates, but not when you eat other food sources such as proteins. This could make you feel more jumpy or on edge, according to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., interviewed in “Ladies’ Home Journal.”

Carbohydrates and Energy

Because carbohydrates are the chief energy source for your body, a lack of carbohydrates in your diet can make you feel tired, which also can affect your mood. “If you don’t have enough energy to function effectively and meet the demands of your day, that’s going to create tension,” said Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University and author in a “Psychology Today” interview.


Not all experts agree that lack of carbohydrates in your diet affects your mood. Diets like the Atkins diet claim that low-carbohydrate diets improve your mood because you experience fewer blood sugar spikes when you eat fewer carbohydrates, according to “Ladies’ Home Journal.” Research from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia that compared mood in study participants on a low-fat or low-carbohydrates diet also reported participants did not experience a difference in mood, according to “Psychology Today.”


Carbohydrates -- or a lack of them -- can affect people differently. If you cut your carb intake and don't have any mood changes, the lack of carbohydrates may not affect you. However, if you begin to observe symptoms like anxiety, depression, tension or unexplained sadness, you may need to increase your daily carbohydrate intake. Be aware that researchers have found that people prone to issues like depression and low moods may be more susceptible to a lack of carbohydrates, according to a 2002 issue of "Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews."

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