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 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 cause 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
Research shows that frequent consumption of large amounts of sugary foods, specifically those that contain “added sugar” 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 lower levels of BDNF are difficult if not impossible to reverse.
High Blood Sugar Levels Linked to 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.