The Effects of Sugar On Your Brain

How Sugar Damages Your Brain

An article published in the journal Nature claimed that sugar is a toxic substance that should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. This conclusion was based on many studies conducted on the effects of sugar in the body including how it impairs several brain functions.


How Sugar Affects the Brain’s Nucleus Accumbens

When a person eats sugary foods there is a specific area in the brain called the nucleus accumbens that initially releases high amounts of dopamine. When a person frequently eats sugar-containing foods their dopamine receptors will start to down-regulate, resulting in fewer receptors of dopamine in the brain.

As a result, the next time that an individual eats a sugary food the effect it has in the brain is no longer as intense as it was the first time it was eaten. Therefore, the person must eat more of these sugary foods in order to experience that same level of “pleasure”.

Studies show that the effect of these sugary foods on the brain is similar to other addictive substances such as nicotine and cocaine. This explains why sugary foods causes chemical reactions in the brain that can cause intense and hard-to-resist cravings in a person.

How Sugar Affects the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor

sugar addiction sugary snacksResearch shows that frequent consumption of large amounts of sugary foods, specifically those that contain “added sugar” (refined sugar white or brown) can lead to reduced production of BDNF.

BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is a chemical in the brain that plays a crucial role in the development of neurons and brain tissues that are responsible for forming new memories.

Without BDNF, an individual will have increased difficulty storing memories and learning new things. Low levels of BDNF are commonly found among people who have impaired glucose metabolism, particularly those who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

If a person continues to consume foods that contain added sugar their BDNF will also continue to decrease, which will contribute to the worsening of insulin resistance.

This means the person will more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes and other illnesses that are linked to metabolic syndrome. Unfortunately, the destructive cycle of high sugar consumption and lowered levels of BDNF are difficult if not impossible to reverse.

High Blood Sugar Levels Linked to Brain Shrinkage

sugar addiction brain shrinkage

A study led by Dr. Nicolas Cherbuin of The Australian National University showed that people who have higher blood sugar levels even within the accepted normal range were found to have shrinkage in areas of the brain that are responsible for emotional and memory processing.

Over a four-year period, those with higher blood glucose levels (but still within the ‘normal’ range, not diabetic or pre-diabetic) showed a marked reduction in mass of specific areas of the brain compared to those with lower blood sugar.

Experts say that this finding strongly suggests that high blood sugar levels have adverse effects on the brain even if a person does not have diabetes.

These are just a few of the many studies which show that people are slowly but surely damaging their health through sugar consumption. It is in this light that health advocates are now pushing to put an end to high sugar consumption.

Health groups are encouraging everyone to eat more whole and unprocessed foods and reduce foods with a high sugar content.

Those concerned with their family’s health should do so now, rather than wait for governments to issue warnings or set regulatory policies on sugar consumption and production.

The Sugar Craving Cycle

Effects of sugar on the brain and bodyTake a look at the two diagrams, do you recognise any of these eating habits? If so, like millions of others, you are highly likely to be addicted to sugar just like I was…… see Mr Grumpy, that was me, as regular a clockwork.

Add to that my slowly expanding waistline even though I ate quite healthily, apart from the muffins, biscuits and snickers…. YUM! When we fancy ‘chocolate’ you have to remember most chocolate bars etc actually have very little cocoa in them, the one ingredient they don’t skimp on is…..SUGAR.

Sugar addiction sugar craving

At this point, like I was, you may be at a point of denial as it just can’t be the sugar etc. However, according to recent research, sugar is as addictive as cocaine! So don’t feel too bad, after all, you are only human.

Can You Beat Your Sugar Addiction?

How do you get off the blood sugar roller coaster? There are the two camps; cold-turkey, just stop eating the extra goodies (chocolate, biscuits, cakes etc) or the gradual method over a given length of time, give yourself a bit of chance.

As you can imagine, with sugar being so addictive, like any addiction, the cold turkey method is easier said than done and hence, many who try this method fail!

The gradual method or better still programme is far better a very good example of that is the much written and talked about The New 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide

How to stop sugar cravingsThis programme holds your hand and takes you day by day through a 21 day sugar detox. The most difficult part for many when attempting a life-changing habit is, what to cook, or what can you eat and what you should avoid.

This very well thought out programme has you covered with 75 different recipes, ranging from ‘sheep pan beef’ to ‘veggie kebabs’ and not forgetting the most difficult ‘what to have for lunch’ when you are at work, it also includes ‘packable lunches’.

Something that is often overlooked with these programmes is preparation, this sugar detox programme included what to do seven days before AND 7 days after. It is nothing unusual for anyone who is trying to adopt to a new way whether is be lifestyle or habit or diet to….. ‘fall of the wagon’. Again, this programme has you covered (I did say it was well thought out), it has a whole chapter dedicated to your mindset and positive thinking, including exercises to work through common pitfalls.

If you are looking to curb your sugar intake or want to overcome the adverse effects on consuming too much refined sugar, what have you got to lose……. being irritable, sugar cravings, ooh, and a few inches of your waistline!

Quote from one of the many happy ex sugar addicts, who followed the 21 day sugar detox programme…

“It not easy breaking the sugar habits, but once you do it, you will feel amazing. Foods that once taste bland or for some gross will have a sweet taste and or will start tasting good. One that shock me that is or has a sweet taste was avocado. Getting off sugar also helped me with inflammation. The list is long on why I was happy I did this program. It reset you body. It  is well worth it.” – Lisa P.

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