The Scary Reality Of How Sugar Affects Your Brain
Whether you’re talking about brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup, or any other kind of processed sweetener, sugar has dangerous effects on the human body, and the brain is no exception. Overconsumption of sugar has been shown to negatively impact the brain in several different ways. Lets explore The Effects Of Sugar On The Brain.
It can lead to anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, and more. So it’s important to minimize the number of refined sugars you eat each day.
This list of 10 effects of Sugar on the Brain: will help you see just how detrimental eating sugary foods can be to your health and mental functioning and how you can avoid it from happening.
Are All Sugars Equal?
While sugar has been shown to cause numerous health issues, including disrupting brain function, one might wonder whether all sugars have the same effect on the body.
Do the sugar in a chocolate bar and the sugar in an orange affect the brain similarly? Is one better than the other?
Should you be worried about sugar in either case? The fact is, there are many different types of sugars, each with its own unique effects on your body, some positive and some negative—and it’s important to understand which ones to avoid or consume and how to keep an eye on your intake.
Processed sugar vs. unprocessed sugar
Most of the sugar we consume, like table sugar, is processed, meaning it’s been extracted from its natural source and then often bleached and refined.
This type of sugar is stripped of many nutrients, including fiber, and can have a negative impact on our health when consumed in large amounts. Processed sugar is often found in things like candy, cookies, cakes, and other sweetened foods.
On the other hand, unprocessed sugar refers to the natural sugar in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and honey.
The best way to avoid processed sugars is by choosing whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes).
How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
In the modern world, it’s easier than ever to consume large amounts of added sugar without realizing it. Whether you’re pouring it into your coffee, slathering it on your morning toast, or stirring it into your yogurt, there are many places where added sugar can sneak into our diets in the most unexpected ways.
To help us avoid the negative health effects of excess sugar consumption, the World Health Organization recommends that adults and children reduce their daily sugar intake to less than 10 percent of their total calories. They also recommend a further reduction of no more than 5 percent in your total calorie intake for additional benefits.
On the other hand, the American Heart Association recommends that the daily added sugar intake be no more than 9 (36 grams or 150 calories) teaspoons for men and not more than 6 (25 grams or 100 calories) teaspoons for women
While these recommendations are put in place to protect our health, an average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar or 270 calories, which is more than the recommended amount. This may include those included in soft drinks, processed foods, tea, lemonade, coffee, etc.
It’s often impossible to tell how much sugar you’ve consumed, especially if you are constantly eating processed foods and drinks. This is because you can’t always tell how much sugar is in these foods. This leaves you with the option of avoiding them altogether.
Effects Of Sugar On The Brain
1. Effects of sugar on mental performance
Sugar and mental performance go hand in hand, but not in the way you might think. Here is what too much sugar can do to your performance
Sugar makes you unfocused
Sugar makes you unfocused and unable to concentrate due to the fact that it provides a quick burst of energy, but it doesn’t last long.
Once the initial rush wears off, you’re left feeling tired and cranky. This means that you’re constantly seeking out more sugar in an attempt to feel stable again. The consumption of sugar is self-perpetuating because of this cycle.
And because you’ll get addicted to this sugary high, you tend to eat more and more to feel better. Unfortunately, this just exacerbates the problem. All that extra sugar boosts insulin levels, leading to insulin resistance—a precursor to diabetes—and makes you crave even more sugar in an endless cycle of self-destruction.
Too much sugar disrupts your memory
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that consuming too much sugar can negatively affect memory.
The study, conducted on rats, found that rats who consumed a high-sugar diet had difficulty recalling memories of past events. The researchers believe this is because high blood sugar levels disrupt communication between cells in the brain.
The changes induced by excess sugar intake were seen in the hippocampus (part of the brain that supports learning and memory) and in many other brain regions. Scientists believe this could be due to changes in neurotransmitter release or reduced neurogenesis (formations of neurons).
Another study from the Boston University School of Medicine found that consuming more sweetened drinks resulted in poor memory and reduced brain volume, especially in the hippocampus.
The study also discovered that drinking 1-2 sugary drinks per day corresponded with 5.8 years of brain aging while consuming more than 2 sugary drinks corresponded with 11 years of brain aging. This means too much sugar accelerates the rate at which your brain function declines, and that includes your memory and other cognitive abilities.
Sugar reduces creativity
Creativity is the ability to see things from a different perspective and come up with new and innovative ideas. It’s a skill that can be learned and developed, and it’s something that we all have the potential to do. However, too much sugar can have a negative impact on our creativity.
For example, in one study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), researchers found that people who consumed sugary drinks had poorer attention spans than those who drank water. They also performed worse on tests involving solving problems and generating ideas.
Sugar drains your energy
Sugar may give you an initial burst of energy, but it quickly leads to a crash. That’s because when you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar levels spike and then drop soon after. This leaves you feeling tired and run down.
Your body also starts pumping out more adrenaline to compensate for the dip in glucose levels. Adrenaline makes you feel energized in the short term, but it is actually sapping your brain of glucose and slowing cognitive function over time.
2. Sugar and anxiety
If you’re constantly struggling with anxiety, you might want to consider cutting back on your sugar intake.
A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that increased sugar consumption can increase anxiety symptoms like feeling restless, having a hard time concentrating, and feeling like your heart is racing. If you’re already dealing with anxiety, adding sugar to your diet can make it even harder to manage.
Too much sugar spikes your blood glucose levels and triggers a stress response in your body which can lead to a heightened sense of fear and worry.
It also slows down brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating emotion. Over time this could lead to a weakened ability to handle emotions like anger or sadness.
So if you are anxious, reducing your sugar intake could be one way to help lessen those feelings.
3. Sugar and addiction
Studies have shown that sugar addiction is similar to drug addiction like morphine, and can lead to cravings, binges, and withdrawal symptoms.
When we eat sugar, our brain releases dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical. This encourages us to keep eating sugary foods even though we know they’re not good for us. Over time, we need more and more sugar to get the same dopamine release, which can lead to addiction.
Understanding the science behind addiction
Sugar addiction is a real phenomenon, and it’s one that can be extremely difficult to overcome. The science behind addiction is complex, but essentially it comes down to the fact that sugar releases dopamine in the brain, which can create a sense of pleasure and reward.
Over time, the brain becomes less sensitive to dopamine, which means that more and more sugar is needed to get the same effect.
This can lead to cravings, binges, and ultimately addiction. Studies have shown that rats who had access to only sugary water will choose this drink over both water and sweetened water after just two weeks. They’ll also continue to drink from these bottles even when they’re given alcohol or cocaine as other options, showing just how addictive sugar can be.
5. Sugar And Bipolar Disorder
When you eat sugar, your body releases dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical. However, eating too much sugar can lead to a dopamine overload, which has been linked to bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness due to imbalanced brain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, causing extreme mood swings. These swings can range from feeling energetic and happy to feeling sad and hopeless.
Eating too much sugar can exacerbate these symptoms. Scientists believe it may be because the brain becomes flooded with too many dopamine signals.
Another reason could be the glucose spikes that happen after eating sugary foods. The constant rise in blood sugar levels can cause mood swings by disrupting serotonin levels in the brain.
Serotonin is an important chemical that helps regulate mood and emotions. Disrupting serotonin levels can make someone more prone to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, which is a major risk for people with bipolar. According to a 2010 review and meta-analysis, between 25%-60% of people with bipolar will attempt suicide at least once in their life, while 4-19% end their life through suicide.
6. Sugar And ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
When we eat sugar, our bodies release dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical. However, too much sugar can lead to a dopamine overload, which has been linked to ADHD. Dopamine overload can cause hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention.
When the levels of dopamine drop, symptoms worsen. When they rise again after eating sugar, those symptoms lessen temporarily before they worsen again once the effect wears off.
Studies have found that children with ADHD are more likely to consume sugary drinks and have a higher intake of sugar overall.
In addition, sugar can affect the part of the brain responsible for self-control and decision-making, making it harder to resist impulsive behavior.
7. Sugar And Brain Aging
You might not realize it, but that sugar-laden coffee or energy drink could be hastening your brain’s aging process. Studies have shown that a diet high in sugar can lead to accelerated brain aging, shrinking the hippocampus (a key memory center), and increased inflammation throughout the body.
All of this can leave you feeling foggy-headed, irritable, and forgetful. One study found a correlation between sugar intake and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as dementia among the elderly. So if you’re hoping to keep your mind sharp as you age, it’s best to limit your sugar intake.
8. It Reduces Gray Matter In The Brain
Gray matter is the tissue in the brain that contains neurons. These cells are responsible for processing information and controlling muscle movement.
Too much sugar can decrease gray matter volume, which has been linked to poor memory and decreased cognitive function. The hippocampus is one region of the brain that’s rich in gray matter.
Some studies have found that when people with depression eat more sugar, their hippocampal volume shrinks even more than it would without eating excess amounts of added sugars.
Research shows that too much sugar can lead to anxiety, depression, ADHD, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and even memory loss over time. These are just some of the most common ways that sugar affects your brain, but there are many more dangers that lurk in this sweet little substance that you may not be aware of until it’s too late. So it’s always good to limit your sugar intake and not just for the brain but for your overall health and wellbeing.
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