Sugar is such an integral part of our diets that we don’t even realize how much sugar we intake every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we consume an average of 440 calories a day. It is almost a quarter of our net calorie intake every single day. But is sugar harmful? Yes, it is called the white poison and rightfully so. All natural and processed sugar are bad for the brain. Eating too much sugar has several side effects on our brain.The relation between eating too much sugar and your brain
Your brain consumes the most amount of energy. It utilizes around 60% of the body’s glucose. But the problem arises when the brain is exposed to excess sugar. Excess sugar is bad for the brain. It affects cognitive abilities and causes a host of other side effects.
Research has indicated that high sugar intake reduces the production of BDNF. BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is a chemical produced in the brain that helps in the formation and retention of memories and learning. Reduced production of BDNF causes a destructive cycle that’s difficult to reverse.
Excessive exposure to high sugar levels reduces mental capacity. A high level of HbA1c causes a higher degree of brain shrinkage. Even in non-diabetic people, high sugar consumption leads to lower scores on tests of cognitive function. These effects are due to a combination of hyperglycemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated cholesterol.
The other side effects of eating too much sugar on your brain are:
- Anxiety and Tension –
An increased amount of sugar in your bloodstream can trigger severe anxiety attacks. Although people consume sugar to increase their energy levels, it can drain the energy and increase tension. And when sugar levels drop, the brain starts craving food, and your body assumes hypoglycemic state. In this state, your body can become weak, anxious, confused and shaky.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, about 18 people participated in an experiment. In this experiment, they rated their tiredness and tension levels after eating chocolate or walking briskly for ten minutes.
People reported higher levels of energy and lower levels of tension after brisk walking. On, the other hand, people reported higher levels of tension after eating a sugary snack. The study also reported another pattern. People reported an increase in the energy level immediately after eating the snack but felt fatigued after two to three hours.
- Impaired Memory –
High intake of sugar reduces the production of BDNF. Without BDNF, your brains will not be able to form new memories or learn (or remember) much of anything. Studies have found that low levels of BDNF are related to impaired glucose metabolism—diabetics and pre-diabetics. And with a decrease in BDNF sugar metabolism worsens. According to research published in Behavioral Neuroscience, high blood sugar might be related to impaired memory.
- Reduced cognition –
Several studies and pieces of evidence suggest that a high-sugar diet is linked to impaired cognitive function. According to several experiments conducted on animals, eating too much sugar can severely impair normal brain functions. Impairment of normal functioning of the brain leads to reduced cognitive abilities.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s– Dementia is a mental illness. Several Physiological, genetic, and nutritional factors play a role in the onset of dementia. According to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology, the animals exposed to excess sugar consumption developed dementia. Eating too much sugar causes an insulin reaction that increases deposits of beta-amyloid proteins. An increased deposit of beta-amyloid protein increases the risk of developing dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is progressive mental disease leading to loss of memory and other mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease may occur due to a deposit of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, which disrupts normal function.
According to a recent study, which followed 5,000 people throughout ten years, found that people with high levels of sugar had significantly swift cognitive decline. People with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop dementia. That is the reason why Alzheimer’s disease is now called Type-3 diabetes.
Excessive sugar is a major contributing factor in depression. One of the primary causes of depression is the lack of serotonin. And sugar interferes with the production of serotonin in your body, leading to depression.
Approximately 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut. If you intake a lot of sugar, your gut will not be able to produce enough serotonin. Excessive sugar also interferes with the brain’s ability to utilize serotonin.
There was a study published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety. According to this study, data from six different countries were reviewed to establish the connection between sugar consumption and depression. The results indicated a correlation between higher rates of sugar consumption and depression. The study also indicated that natural sugar was not associated with higher rates of depression.
- Sugar addiction and withdrawal symptoms – Just like any other drug, excessive sugar consumption can lead to addiction. There is a short-term reward circuitry in the brain which enhances dopamine production.
Consumption of sugar stimulates particular areas of the brain linked to addiction. In short, when you eat sugar, your brain’s reward center becomes activated, and so, it starts craving more sugar. So, now when you’re hungry, you go for high-glycemic foods, and then the entire cycle repeats itself.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sugar produces effects, similar to those caused by addictive drugs. Much like any addiction, you’ll also go through withdrawal symptoms once you stop. There was a study conducted in 2002. In this study, rats were fed excessive sugar and then forced into withdrawal experienced symptoms like teeth chattering, and tremors.
Any processed or added sugar in your food is potentially dangerous for your health. Try to avoid processed sugar as much as possible. It’s a better idea to satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits instead of refined sugar. Try to reduce the intake of sugar to a reasonable limit. And embrace a healthy diet.