How Sugar Affects the Brain and Why You Should Reduce Its Consumption
Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. The brain is the most energy-demanding organ because it is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons. It uses one-half of all the sugar energy in the body.
The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute reports that “the functions of the brain including memory, thinking, and learning are linked closely to glucose levels and how the brain efficiently uses this fuel source. If there is not enough glucose in the brain, neurotransmitters, for example, which are the brain's chemical messengers are not produced well, and communication between neurons stops or breaks down.”
Also, hypoglycemia, which is a common complication of diabetes, is caused by low glucose levels in the blood and can lead to loss of energy for brain function. It can also be linked to poor attention and cognitive function. The brain is dependent on sugar, and it makes use of sugar as its main fuel. The brain cannot live without it.
Overeating, learning disorders, poor memory formation, depression – all have been linked to the over-consumption of sugar in recent research. And these point to a problem that is only beginning to be better understood.
Why Sugar Is Bad for Your Brain
As we all know, overeating of sugar can cause different physical health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. But did you know that all processed foods and a diet high in sugar-laden desserts can also affect mental health?
Sugar has zero nutritional value and therefore serves as a poison for both our bodies and our brains. Our blood sugar levels spike when we eat sugary foods and our pancreas releases insulin to get rid of the sugar from the blood into the cells.
In the case of fructose, it goes into the liver where it is stored as glycogen, and when glycogen stores are full, they are stored as fat. This process, therefore, causes our sugar levels to drop sharply thereby leaving us feeling irritable and exhausted. To gain our energy back, we start craving more sweets. This, therefore, leads to a never-ending vicious cycle.
A diet that is high in refined sugar and processed foods can cause low energy levels, low immunity, poor digestion, mood swings, and inflammation in our bodies. All of these issues can have a negative impact on mental health.
Although, the brain needs glucose it should not be too much. The effects of glucose and other types of sugar on our brain may be the most intense in diabetes. Diabetes is a type of diseases in which there is a continuous increase in the blood glucose levels.
For Type 1 diabetes, the immune system terminates the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin (insulin is a hormone the body used to keep blood glucose levels in check). Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which cells become overwhelmed by insulin; dietary and other environmental factors cause it. Long-term of both the Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has many consequences for the brain and the neurons in the brain.
High level of glucose in the body can affect the brain's functional connectivity which links to the part of the brain that shares brain matter and functional properties. It can also lead to small-vessel disease, which hinders blood flow in the brain thereby causing cognitive difficulties and the stimulating development of vascular dementia if severe enough.
We are seriously damaging ourselves when we eat processed foods high in added sugar, and the damages begin right from the brain. Overeating of sugar is almost the same as smoking or alcoholism.
So, start taking steps to reducing your intake of sugar today!