Brittney Saline details how exercise and healthy eating might be the best way to combat sugar-fueled depression.

America has a happiness problem, and Coca-Cola’s got the answer. On the multi-billion-dollar beverage company’s website, the brand juxtaposes the words of Aristotle, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha and others with the prose of its marketing team: “Open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness!”

It didn’t work so well for Roxanne Melillo. A survivor of childhood domestic violence and sexual abuse, the 39-year-old has spent her life sugarcoating her pain. It made sense to do so. After all, sugar mediates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates reward signals in the brain. Despite her self-medication, Melillo grew heavier, not happier. By 36, she was pushing 300 lb. at an even 5 feet and had stopped socializing.

“I didn’t care; (sugar) kept me in a cloud of no reality,” she said.

She’s not the only one with a sugar problem. In 2013, the average American consumed approximately 22 teaspoons of caloric sweeteners per day, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. Meanwhile, an estimated 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which dubs depression the world’s “leading cause of disability.”

It’s not for lack of drugs. One in 10 Americans 12 and older takes antidepressant medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The rate of antidepressant use has more than tripled in the past 25 years, and yet, if anything, the overall rate of depression is higher now than it was back then,” said Stephen Ilardi, Read More