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What Does Sugar Do To Your Brain

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What About Sugar Replacements

How sugar affects the brain – Nicole Avena

Sugar replacements are additives which add a sweet taste to your food without the calories of sugar. Some sugar substitutes are synthetically manufactured while others are natural.

There are several sugar replacements. The main types include:

  • Sucralose -this artificial sweetener is derived from sucrose and contains no calories. Its 650 times sweeter than sugar and can be commonly purchased by brands, such as Splenda.
  • Fructose this can be found as crystalline or high-fructose corn syrup which can be used for baking. Fructose is much sweeter than sugar and has been linked to early diabetes.
  • Stevia extracted from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana species of plant, stevia is calorie free and may help to manage cholesterol levels.
  • Aspartame known as E952 in Europe, this artificial sweetener is 200 times sweeter than sugar and consists of two amino acids called aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It contains 4 calories per gram. However, only a small amount is required to sweeten food.

While sugar substitutes can aid weight control and diabetes by allowing a person to eat something sweet with minimal increase in blood sugar levels, some health concerns exist.

Aspartame has been associated with cancer, dementia, and depression. However, research suggests no direct correlation has been found and current recommended levels in Europe at 40mg/kg are safe to consume.

The Damage Added Sugar Does To Our Bodies Begins In Our Brains

Overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders, depressionall have been linked in recent research to the over-consumption of sugar. And these linkages point to a problem that is only beginning to be better understood: what our chronic intake of added sugar is doing to our brains.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture , the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year. That’s five grocery store shelves loaded with 30 or so one pound bags of sugar each. If you find that hard to believe, that’s probably because sugar is so ubiquitous in our diets that most of us have no idea how much we’re consuming. The Centers for Disease Control puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 caloriesnearly one quarter of a typical 2000 calorie a day diet.

The key word in all of the stats is “added.” While a healthy diet would contain a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar , the problem is that we’re chronically consuming much more added sugar in processed foods, generally in the rapidly absorbed form of fructose.

That’s an important clarification because our brains need sugar every day to function. Brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body roughly 10% of our total daily energy requirements. This energy is derived from glucose , the gasoline of our brains. Sugar is not the brain’s enemyadded sugar is.

Sugar Can Affect Your Mood

Youve probably heard of the term sugar rush and have maybe even turned to a doughnut or soda for an extra boost during a long day.

Yet sugar may not be such a positive pick-me-up after all. Recent research indicates that sugary treats have no positive effect on mood.

In fact, sugar may have the opposite effect over time.

One found that consuming a diet high in sugar can increase the chances of incident mood disorders in men, and recurrent mood disorders in both men and women.

A more recent 2019 study found that regular consumption of saturated fats and added sugars were related to higher feelings of anxiety in adults over age 60.

Although more studies are needed to solidify the relationship between mood and sugar consumption, its important to consider how

If your idea of coping with stress involves a pint of Ben and Jerrys, youre not alone. Lots of people turn to sugary sweets when they feel anxious.

Thats because sugary foods can weaken the bodys ability to respond to stress.

Sugar can help you feel less frazzled by suppressing the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis in your brain, which controls your response to stress.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that sugar inhibited stress-induced cortisol secretion in healthy female participants, minimizing feelings of anxiety and tension. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone.

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How Much Sugar Are We Consuming

The Centers for Disease Control puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 calories The key word in all of the stats is added. While a healthy diet would contain a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar , the problem is that were chronically consuming much more added sugar in processed foods.

Sugar Can Disrupt Memory Formation

What sugar does to your brain

Another brain area affected by high sugar diets is the hippocampus a key memory centre.

Research shows that rats eating high-sugar diets were less able to remember whether they had previously seen objects in specific locations before.

The sugar-induced changes in the hippocampus were both a reduction of newborn neurons, which are vital for encoding memories, and an increase in chemicals linked to inflammation.

Also Check: Decreased Cerebral Perfusion Symptoms

Sugar Rush: The Effects Of Sugar On The Brain

When you eat something, it triggers a number of actions inside of you. Your tongue sends signals to your brain about what youre tasting. Your gut and your brain work together, in turn, to release dopamine into your blood. Dopamine makes you feel good, which reinforces that what you just did is good.

When it comes to sugar, your brain has an especially strong dopamine response. So, we keep wanting it and wanting more of it. That can lead to cravings, a higher tolerance for sugar and eating more to get that same dopamine effect.

How Does Sugar Affect Your Brain & Nervous System In West Des Moines

It’s fair to say, we’ve all had a sweet tooth at some point in our lives. You know that can’t kick-it craving that won’t go away until you devour a cookie or bowl of ice cream!? What you might not realize is that excess sugar in the brain can impair both our nervous system, cognitive skills and self-control. This causes more intense cravings for more sugar.

The more sugar you crave and consume can have negative effects on the rest of your body. Specifically, it can impact your central nervous system. The health of your spine and nervous system are what we are take into consideration.

Our nutrition and what we put into our bodies can play a vital role in the health of our nervous system. Sugar is actually one of the biggest culprits to leave a negative impact on your body, as well as your entire nervous system.

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Can Sugar Rewire The Brain

The brain continuously remodels and rewires itself through a process called neuroplasticity. This rewiring can happen in the reward system. Repeated activation of the reward pathway by drugs or by eating lots of sugary foods causes the brain to adapt to frequent stimulation, leading to a sort of tolerance.

In the case of sweet foods, this means we need to eat more to get the same rewarding feeling a classic feature of addiction.

Food addiction is a controversial subject among scientists and clinicians. While it is true that you can become physically dependent on certain drugs, it is debated whether you can be addicted to food when you need it for basic survival.

Surviving A Sugar Detox

What Sugar Does to Your Brain & Body: The Truth About Sugar

In her book Potatoes, Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity, nutritionist Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, offers a dietary plan to smooth the sometimes challenging process of getting off sugar. She proposes three primary solutions to support mental and physical health during the transition.

  • Keep a food journal. DesMaisons says this will help keep you in sync and in a relationship with your body. It reminds you of the connection between what you eat and how you feel.
  • Always eat breakfast, and have five small meals each day at regular intervals.
  • Find ways to naturally stimulate your serotonin level. This might mean doing meditation, yoga, and exercise on a regular basis. DesMaisons also recommends eating high-quality sources of protein at each mealsuch as organic eggs, a handful of almonds, bananas, purple berries, or animal-based omega-3 fats. These foods help to keep blood sugar levels steady for enhanced energy and mood.
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    Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness: A Surprising Link, Psychology Today, July 2009

    How Does the Vagus Nerve Convey Gut Instincts to the Brain, Psychology Today, May 2014

    Recommended Reading: Bleed In The Brain Stem

    Three Ways Sugar Affects Your Nervous System:

    Increases Sugar Cravings

    Sugar by nature is addictive and can result in the desire to eat more and more until you are over indulging. In actuality, eating something sweet releases the dopamine creating a positive reinforcement for eating sugar.

    Impairs Memory and Learning

    Too much sugar can leave you feeling fatigued, tired and irritated. A diet high in fructose can also impair memory retention and the ability to learn effectively.

    Contributes To Depression and Anxiety

    A sugar crash is when the high sugar levels in your body suddenly plummet and crash after an increased consumption of sugar. This sudden crash in blood sugar levels leads to bad moods, anxiety and increased level of stress. A high-sugar diet can lead to depression and anxiety-like behavior.

    At , we help optimize your nervous system and brain function by addressing the source of your misalignments. This process includes diet evaluation and determining if a high-sugar diet may be causing negative impacts on the rest of your body, specifically your brain.

    Heres What Happens To Your Brain When You Give Up Sugar For Lent

    Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a huge sweet tooth. I always have. My friend and fellow graduate student Andrew is equally afflicted, and living in Hershey, Pennsylvania the Chocolate Capital of the World doesnt help either of us.

    But Andrew is braver than I am. Last year, he gave up sweets for Lent. I cant say that Im following in his footsteps this year, but if you are abstaining from sweets for Lent this year, heres what you can expect over the next 40 days.

    Sugar: natural reward, unnatural fix

    In neuroscience, food is something we call a natural reward. In order for us to survive as a species, things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated.

    The nucleus accumbens. Geoff B Hall

    Evolution has resulted in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain system that deciphers these natural rewards for us. When we do something pleasurable, a bundle of neurons called the ventral tegmental area uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to signal to a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The connection between the nucleus accumbens and our prefrontal cortex dictates our motor movement, such as deciding whether or not to taking another bite of that delicious chocolate cake. The prefrontal cortex also activates hormones that tell our body: Hey, this cake is really good. And Im going to remember that for the future.

    21 spoonfuls to go. Spoonful of sugar by Shutterstock

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    What Happens When You Stop Eating

    When you dont eat for a few hours, the levels of glucose in the blood plummet and insulin release stops. Alpha cells found in the pancreas produce a hormone called glucagon which causes the liver to break down your stored glycogen, converting it back into glucose. Additionally, your liver can produce glucose by using fats, amino acids, and waste.

    Your blood sugar levels can drop too low: a condition called hypoglycemia. This occurs a few hours after eating when there is too much insulin in the blood, or due to certain medications. This is why you might feel dizzy, shaky, anxious or irritable when you havent eaten for several hours. Eating at least 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates will reverse your symptoms.

    Discover Your Insulin Resistance Level

    What Happens To Your Brain When You Stop Eating Sugar

    Insulin resistance affects up to half of North Americans. Insulin resistance can be a risk factor in dementia. You can change your insulin resistance level.

    Talk to your health care provider about testing your blood levels for :

    • Glucose
    • Triglyceride
    • HDL cholesterol

    You can keep a food diary for a week to see how much sugar and refined carbohydrates you eat. Choice one or two things each day to cut back on. Remove one source of sugar and replace it with a whole food. An ideal goal would be to have 20 grams or less of sugar per meal.

    If you have insulin resistance you can change that by what you eat. Insulin resistance levels can be changed within weeks simply by changing what you eat.

    It is never too late to make a healthy choice. Your nutrition impacts brain health. Use these ideas to jumpstart your health. You can protect your brain from sugar damage.

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    The Effects Of Sugar On The Brain

    Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

    • Sugar is everywhere. Its naturally found in foods like fruit and dairy. But its also added to many of the foods you might eat daily, and too much sugar spells bad news.
    • Sugar is easily accessible and tastes delicious, but its easy to go overboard. It can lead to energy crashes, mood swings and even insulin resistance in the long-term.
    • Get the details about the effects of sugar on the brain and body. Then, find out how to beat those sweet cravings.

    Honey. High fructose corn syrup. Sucrose. Sugar comes in many different forms, from naturally occurring sugars in fruit to refined table sugar. But regardless of its source, sugar can cause trouble when its consumed in large amountsand it starts in your brain. The effects of sugar on the brain can feel small, like a persistent chocolate craving. Or the effects can be major, like insulin resistance and impaired brain function after years of too much sugar.

    But why, exactly, is sugar a problem? How does sugar affect the brain? And is there a better way to get the energy you need, without all the negative side effects?

    How To Fuel Your Brain And Body With Lasting Energy

    Clearly, sugar is a nightmare when it comes to brain function. But luckily, theres an alternative that will get your brain the energy it needs without all the negative side effectsand thats ketones.

    Ketones set the stage for brain health and function both directly by serving as super fuels for brain cells, as well as by triggering expression of our DNA that allows us to create chemicals that actually enhance the growth of new brain cells as well as their connection to each other, says Perlmutter.

    A high-fat, lower-carbohydrate diet gives the brain more efficient fuel than a diet heavy in carbs and sugars . For example, a study found that a ketogenic diet produced enhanced mitochondrial gene expression in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Pretty smart.

    Whats more, eating more quality fats helps you feel more satisfied, without the effects of sugar on the brain you get from a high-carb meal . Ketones actually help curb cravings while keeping you fueledone of the big benefits of the keto diet.

    By and large, a diet that favors sugar and carbs is a diet that steers a person away from burning fat. And thats really threatening for brain function. Burning fat, and not sugar, is the ideal scenario for brain functionality, says Perlmutter.

    Now that weve covered what sugar does to your body and brain, are you ready to kick your sweet tooth to the curb? Find out how to detox from sugar.

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    Excess Sugar Puts The Brain In Overdrive

    Because glucose is the primary source of energy to the brain, too much sugar can put it into an overdrive mode. When the brain is overstimulated, it can lead to hyperactivity and mood swings. However, these behavioral changes are only the short-term consequences. Some evidence suggests that this brain hyperactivity in adolescents is linked to cognitive deficits in adulthood.

    Sugar also has an addictive effect because it stimulates neurons in the brains reward system, known as the limbic system. When activated, the limbic system generates high emotions such as pleasure, which reinforces further sugar consumption.

    In addition, within the limbic system there is a tiny structure called the amygdala, which processes emotional information. Overactivation of the amygdala is associated with exaggerated emotions such as fear and anxiety.

    Research suggests that there is a strong relationship between high sugar consumption, altered behaviors and poor emotional regulation. Although sugar intake may boost mood momentarily, chronic sugar consumption has been linked with increased risk of mental health problems.

    Studies in lab animals also suggest that high consumption of sugar hinders learning and memory. Interestingly, daily intake of sugar-sweetened beverages during teenage years is associated with worsening of performance on a learning and memory task during adulthood. The researchers of that study suggest that this impairment could be due to alterations in gut bacteria.

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