What Eating Too Much Sugar Does to Your Brain
Like the rest of us, you probably enjoy eating sugar. Nothing tastes quite as good as cookies, ice cream, cakes, or candy, or chocolate, right?
However, you try to resist the urge to have that dessert, you simply can’t resist the temptation to just have a little and satisfy your need for sugar.
Eating sugar became a part of our everyday lives. You probably eat a lot of it every day.
For some food you know it has sugar and for some, you’re not even aware that it does.
Why is this bad?
Well, eating too much of it can have serious side effects on your health, especially on your mental capabilities.
So, don’t be surprised if you forget where you left something from time to time.
It’s possible that your memory is damaged from because you eat too much sugar.
For starters, let’s point out the most known ways sugar damages your health:
- it can cause heart disease
- it can cause high cholesterol
- type 2 diabetes is formed from chronic blood sugar
- it can lead to you having a stroke
- it suppresses the immune system
- people with diabetes with high blood sugar can have nerve damage because of it
Everyone knows that eating unhealthy food with sugar will make you fat and can harm your body, but rarely anyone knows that sugar also seriously harms the brain.
It affects your brain in such a way that it slows down the communication between your brain cells.
We’re very well aware that no one likes to cut on sweets.
Neither do we and neither do you.
Still, healthier alternatives should be considered.
After this short overview of how damaging eating too much sugar can be, you are still probably not convinced enough to start monitoring how much of it you actually eat.
Keep reading, in the following article, you will find out how harmful eating too much sugar can be for the human brain.
Read the entire article, and then make a decision yourself whether it’s worth it to pay attention to your sugar eating habits.
Let’s get into it!
THE SIDE EFFECTS OF EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR
Can you guess which part of your body needs the most fuel?
Of course, it’s the organ you use to think – your brain! It’s fueled mainly from glucose, but what happens when your body has had way more sugar than it’s supposed to?
Well, less is more is true in this situation.
Eating large amounts of sugar not only damages our cognitive skills but also our ability to control ourselves.
If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to stop at just one bar of chocolate, this is the reason for that. Sugar is addicting and it affects the part of the brain in charge of the “reward system”.
When you eat something sweet it feels good, so your brain recognizes it as a reward, and it wants more. For many people, this is a problem and leads to them dropping sugar altogether.
It’s easier for them to completely avoid it than to control their intake of it.
Food addiction is becoming a bigger problem nowadays, which is why even scientists are beginning to address it. No wonder so many people are obese.
High-glycemic foods provoke more intense feelings of hunger.
Other low-glycemic foods don’t do this so much. Food which leads to a higher elevation in blood glucose creates a bigger addiction for your brain.
Over time, people find that they need more and more sugar to satisfy their need for it.
You’ve probably noticed that when you have dessert regularly that over time you need more of it as time goes by.
Or you need something sweeter than you did before. Or maybe you have a friend who doesn’t eat sweet often and you can notice how they need less sugar than you.
Did you know that sweet food can be even more addicting than highly addictive drugs (like cocaine for example)?
An experiment was conducted with animals and it was discovered that the reward you feel from eating something sweet can surpass the “reward feeling” you get when using cocaine.
Just like with all addictions, if you decide to stop it, you have to go through a withdrawal phase, which isn’t pleasant, to say the least.
Extreme cases of people going through sugar withdrawal have reported that they went through head shakes and teeth clenching.
Apart from these physical symptoms, mental symptoms like depression or anxiety have also been known to appear.
Apart from the addiction you can form towards sugar, there are other serious side effects which can happen, like:
- memory deterioration
- mood swings
- worse mental capacity
Let’s look at each of these side effects one by one.
a) How does eating too much sugar affect my memory?
If you even have an instance of elevated glucose in your bloodstream, it can be harmful to the brain.
A single instance can cause attention and memory deterioration. Inflammation in the brain leads to these memory deficits, and inflammation happens because of high consumption of sugar.
The good news here is that the consequences of inflammation do not have to be permanent.
By following a low sugar diet, you can reverse the effects and get your memory back to its former glory.
Even better, with a good diet, your memory can get better and better through time.
There is certain food which is good for the brain, like the omega-3 fatty acids. If your diet is full of it, your brain will thank you!
b) How does eating too much sugar affect my mood?
Elevated glucose in the bloodstream also compromises a person’s ability to process emotion.
It is common that people who suffer from type 2 diabetes feel sadder and more anxious than others.
Higher rates of sugar consumption can lead to higher chances of depressive behavior.
Since sweet food makes you feel good, it’s normal for people to eat it when they feel sad. Just like people drink alcohol to escape bad feelings, people also eat sugar for the same reason sometimes.
Let’s admit it, even you had one of those nights where you feel like your life is falling apart so you just stay at home eating cookies and ice-cream.
It’s alright, it happens to everyone.
But still, we should be aware of the consequences of bad and unhealthy behavior like that.
Sugar really is a contributing factor to depression, and the more you have it, the bigger the chances of feeling depressed or anxious. Interestingly, it is proven that even though sugar is correlated to depression, natural sugar sources aren’t.
So, the sugar found in fruit is absolutely beneficiary in every way and doesn’t have the same risk as added sugar.
It’s also common practice for people to crave for sugar as a source of energy.
Majority of us drink coffee (with sugar) regularly, and some of us drink energy drinks, all to get more energy and help our body feel more awake.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar can actually take away your energy and increase your tension level.
In a study conducted by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, two groups did different activities and they compared their levels of energy afterward. One group walked and the other had a candy snack.
Can you guess which group reported lower levels of energy and higher levels of tension?
Well, of course, the group which had the candy bar!
Even the people who reported that they noticed an energy boost after eating the candy bar, after an hour of that effect, reported that they felt increased tiredness.
c) How does eating too much sugar affect my mental capacity?
Blood vessels are also harmed from elevated blood glucose.
Damage of blood vessels is one of the biggest causes of diabetes, and can sometimes also be the cause for damaged blood vessels in the eyes and in the brain.
Long-term diabetics have reported that over time, because of brain damage, they feel it’s harder for them to learn and memorize new things.
Other cognitive skills get worse over time, and motor speed gets slower and slower.
Even people who don’t suffer from diabetes but consume a lot of sugar have been known to score less on the test of cognitive functions.
This is the effect of a number of things like:
- elevated cholesterol
- insulin resistance
Also, brain shrinkage is known to happen because of exposures to high glucose levels. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a brain chemical which is essential for creating new memory and knowledge.
Diets which have a lot of added sugar actually reduce the production of this chemical.
In extreme cases, people with low levels of BDNF have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
This happens because beta-amyloid protein builds up in the brain and disrupt its normal functioning.
Another complex illness that can be attributed to high sugar consumption is dementia.
Similar to Alzheimer’s, the risk of developing dementia comes from the risk of beta-amyloid proteins building up, which is caused by excess sugar which creates an insulin reaction.
WHAT EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR DOES TO THE REST OF MY BODY?
The rule of thumb is to limit your daily calories from added sugar to less than 10%.
But that’s easier said than done. Added sugar can be found in almost every source of food, nowadays when a lot of our meals is fast food or quick snacks found outside of our kitchen.
Eating a lot of sugar will damage more than just your brain, so let’s cover the most common side effects sugar can have on your body.
1. Sugar Develops Heart Diseases
Heart diseases are still the number one source of deaths worldwide, and excess sugar has been proven to increase the risk of developing those type of diseases.
The factors which lead to heart disease are:
- high blood sugar
- high blood pressure levels
and they are all the consequence of high sugar diets.
Just one can of soda has about 52 grams of sugar, which is more than 10% of your daily sugar consumption (calculated for the average 2 000 calorie daily diet).
Think about it, you drink one can of soda a day and every day you’ll breach your recommended limit!
2. Sugar Increases the Chance of Developing Diabetes
In the last 30 years, the presence of diabetes has more than doubled worldwide.
Now, this is very bad news, especially when we know that there is a clear correlation between consuming an excess amount of sugar and developing diabetes.
Obesity is still considered the strongest factor for diabetes development.
Also, insulin, the hormone which regulates blood sugar levels produced by the pancreas has limited functionality when consuming large amounts of sugar.
This is because sugar creates resistance to insulin.
When your body becomes resistant to insulin your blood sugar levels rise, and when that happens the risk of diabetes is huge.
Like with heart diseases, one can of soda a day is enough for your body to start insulin resistance. Focusing on drinking enough water sounds so much better now, right?
3. Sugar Leads to Weight Gain
Nothing helps accumulate fat like sugar, especially sugar from drinks and sweets.
Obesity is one of the biggest problems some people have and sugar is one of the main culprits for that.
Fructose can be found in sweet teas, sodas and juices, and is one of the main added sugars that cause obesity.
It increases your desire for sweets and damages your hormone which regulates hunger (leptin), so your body doesn’t know when to stop eating, even if it’s full.
Simply put, sweet drinks don’t feed you the nutrients you need but give you the sugar you don’t need.
HEALTHY NATURAL ALTERNATIVES FOR SUGAR
Just because added sugar is bad doesn’t mean that all sugar is bad.
Sugar found in natural ingredients is very beneficiary, and in the following part, we will cover some of the best sources for natural sugar.
But first, let’s look at a list of words you should be on the lookout for when checking your labels.
All of these words mean sugar, so avoid all of them:
- Agave nectar
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Corn syrup
- Maple syrup
We would also like to point out that you should avoid artificial sweeteners (like saccharin, aspartame or sucralose).
They have also been proven to have negative effects on the brain and are definitely not a healthy alternative to sugar.
Like regular sugar, they may lead to memory loss, and they are one of the causes of obesity. People think that they avoid sugar by consuming this, but actually, they are doing damage to their body and brain nonetheless.
You can usually find artificial sweeteners in food like sugar-free snacks, sugar-free drinks and energy drinks.
Here are a few natural substitutes for sugar which will definitely satisfy your need for sugar:
1. Fruit – This is the best option you could go for. Not only is there lots of types to choose from, whatever your preferred taste might be, but you get free nutrients (like for examples fibers and antioxidants) which are very healthy for the body.
2. Stevia – The most known natural sweetener out there! It’s made in South America by extracting it from the leaves of a shrub. It is popularly used in teas, baking and coffee.
3. Xylitol – Rarely anyone knows about this natural sugar alcohol. It’s also used for making tea, coffee and baking, just like stevia. It’s derived from the skin of the fruits and the bark of birch wood trees. Definitely try it out!
One of the alternatives for sugar that’s been getting more and more popular lately is the ketogenic diet. It gives the brain the energy it needs to function properly but it doesn’t come with bad side effects.
Unlike diets which are heavy in carbohydrates, the ketogenic diet gives the brain fuel and doesn’t create excess glucose.
Your brain performs better when it relies on ketones as its source of energy. It has better cognitive function and protects itself from degenerative diseases.
Burning fat and not burning sugar is the ideal option for optimum brain performance.
When you’re on a keto diet, ketones serve as fuels for the current brain cells and help set the stage for creation of new ones, as well as their connection to each other.
We definitely recommend that you follow this new trend and try this new type of diet out!
We can conclude from all of this that even though sweet food is very delicious, it comes with a price to pay. Any sugar you add to your diet can be dangerous for your health and your brain.
The good news is that you can easily substitute your unhealthy sweets for healthy fruit.
For sure, it won’t taste the same and at first, you won’t feel like you’re eating something sweet, but over time you will see that you feel healthier and more energized than before.
You will understand the meaning of the sentence – “You are what you eat.”
When you switch from sweets to fruit, not only will you satisfy your sweet tooth but you will also get extra antioxidants and fiber, for which your body will thank you.
These healthy nutrients block the negative effects sugar has on your bloodstream, therefore keeping you and your brain safe.
Hopefully, after all of this, you realize how seriously you should take your sugar consumption habits.
We encourage you to take action today and start cutting your sugar and substituting its source for more natural ones.
Trust us, your body and your brain will thank you for it.
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