Forget Fat, Sugar Makes You Flat, Fatigued & Forgetful
Much has been said about the effects of sugar on our waistlines, we are learning more about how sugar affects our heart health …but now there is growing evidence showing that sugar has a negative effect on brain health. Indeed, more than making you fat, sugar can make you flat, fatigued and forgetful.
Sugar and the Brain
When we think about eating too much sugar and the health problems that might be associated with that I guess the first thought and possibly the main concern that most of us may have is weight gain.
But actually high sugar consumption can have a devastating health effect on more than just your waistline.
Poor memory function, learning disorders, anxiety and depression have all been linked with high sugar consumption in recent research.
While sugar is nothing to be too concerned about in small quantities, most of us are simply eating too much of it. The sweet stuff, which also goes by names like glucose, maltose, cane juice, honey and corn syrup to name but a few is found in 74 percent of packaged foods in our supermarkets. So even before you have chosen to enjoy a sweet treat you may already have consumed more than your daily intake of sugar
Sugar By Any Other Name
So you probably already know to look out for sugar, you may be making a conscious effort to reduce the sweet treats in your daily diet stopped taking sugar in your tea, switched to sugar free drinks (more on this later) but the truth is that you cannot avoid sugar.
Sugar is present in almost all our natural foods. Fructose in fruits, starch in grains and vegetables, lactose in dairy… these natural sugars are our primary source of energy and in a well balanced diet are nothing to be concerned about.
Unless…. You are consuming a lot of processed foods which will be high in added sugars, if you enjoy the most starchy of veggies and eat pineapples and bananas over apples and pears…in which case you may be elevating your sweet tooth to seek out more and sweeter stuff in all its forms.
So when we talk about sugar it is not just the white stuff…its all sugars regardless of the source.
Our brains are so rich in nerve cells (neurons) and so it is the most energy demanding organ in the body, using half of the sugar energy you consume every day.
When your sugar levels drop too low or drop too quickly you can find yourself with brain fog, have difficulty concentrating or retaining information and become irritable. Because the brain is reliant on the sugar energy you are hardwired to seek out the sweet stuff in life.
So it can quickly become a vicious cycle where you are propping your self up on sugar in all its forms many time throughout the day.
You know if you are reliant on sugar if you find it hard to go more than an hour or so with consuming something, be that juice, squash, coffee with milk, a piece of fruit, oatcakes etc etc.
If you regularly experience irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue that gets better when you have a coffee or eat something then it may be that your sugar levels are out of balance.
The Feel Good Factor
When you consume sugar, just like any food, it activates the tongue’s taste receptors. Then, signals are sent to the brain, lighting up reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones, like dopamine, to be released. Eating too much sugar or eating sugar too often “hijacks the brain’s reward pathway,”
Sugar-rich and carb-laden foods can also mess with the neurotransmitters that help keep our moods stable. Consuming sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression.
The Bottom Line For Brain Health
New research just emerging has discovered a chemical produced in the brain called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF support s memory formation so we cannot retain information or learn new stuff without it. Sugar reduces the production of BDNF. It is early days but studies are showing that this impaired BDNF can be linked to a range of cognitive diseases.
The bottom line is that sugar is just as bad for the brain as it is for other organs, maybe worse.