We all know sugar has detrimental effects on our health, but did you know that sugar can have negative effects on your brain? The truth is that sugar messes with your brain’s natural functions and increases the risk of cognitive impairment later in life. Understanding what happens to your body when you consume sugar can help you make healthier choices in the future, making it easier to live a long and healthy life.
Unhealthy eating habits damage your memory
Eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients and vitamins can help you maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, avoid high blood pressure, protect against heart disease, and more. But what about eating habits that are not so good for you? Research shows that consuming large amounts of sugar can damage your memory — even if you’re otherwise healthy. A study published in May 2012 by researchers at Simon Fraser University’s Department of Psychology in British Columbia revealed that rats who consumed a diet with 25 percent of calories from sucrose (the equivalent of 10 cans of soda per day) suffered significant memory impairment after only six weeks.
Sugar can make you irritable
Researchers have known for years that sugar can trigger mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression in those who are susceptible. What they’re just beginning to understand is why some people react badly while others don’t. It all comes down to a variation in genes that control dopamine—the happy hormone involved in feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, enjoyment, motivation, addiction (both behavioral and substance), attention span/concentration, sleep quality (especially REM sleep), motivation…pretty much everything related to being happy! As you can see by its affect on so many aspects of our lives listed above…dopamine plays a huge role in regulating our moods.
Sugar can reduce cognitive function
Consuming too much sugar can mess with many different aspects of your life, including cognitive function. A study from University of California-Los Angeles in 2013 found that fructose (sugar) has adverse effects on learning, memory and behavior, especially when consumed in excess. For example, it caused rats to experience increased levels of anxiety. To be clear: The researchers don’t think all types of sugar have similar effects on humans as they did on rats, but they said their findings are a cautionary tale about consuming too much sugar too often. I’m not telling people to stop eating fruit, lead researcher Fernando Gomez-Pinilla told Live Science at the time.
Sugar reduces energy levels
Studies have shown that consuming sugar can negatively affect our brain’s response to dopamine, a natural hormone that helps regulate our sense of pleasure. This can lead to reduced energy levels, which is why some people find themselves feeling lethargic after a sugary snack or meal. Studies have also shown that habitual consumption of high-sugar foods can actually reduce our capacity for happiness. After eating sugary snacks, we can become accustomed to that high level of pleasure, reducing our ability to experience happiness from more meaningful activities like spending time with family or playing sports.
Sugar can cause anxiety or panic attacks
A study in Clinical Neurophysiology suggests that high blood glucose levels may contribute to panic attacks. In other words, consuming too much sugar can make you anxious. When you eat sugary foods, your blood glucose spikes, causing a burst of energy followed by an inevitable crash later on. This up-and-down cycle can trigger feelings of stress or anxiety, particularly in people with anxiety disorders.
Sugar makes it hard to concentrate
Sugar causes a quick spike in blood glucose levels, followed by a rapid drop that leaves you feeling hungry. These changes can make it hard for kids to concentrate or focus on their schoolwork. In fact, recent research shows that added sugars are associated with lower overall academic performance in children! If you’re an adult, it’s important not only to take good care of your children but also yourself. Many people don’t realize how easy it is for extra sugars – like juice, sodas and sweets – to add up during our busy days. The next time you get an afternoon craving for a candy bar or cookie, try choosing a healthier snack like nuts or cheese instead.
Sugar is addictive
Sugar activates receptors in your tongue that are responsible for detecting sweet tastes, known as sweet-taste receptors. In response, they trigger a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward. This is similar to how addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin affect the reward centers of your brain. When you eat sweets over time, those same sweet-taste receptors get used to being stimulated over and over again by high levels of sweetness. To compensate for that level of intensity, you start craving sweeter foods until eventually you’re addicted to them! If you’re struggling with an addiction to sweets or any other type of food, speak with an addiction specialist right away before it becomes too much of a problem.