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This is Your Brain (and Mood) on Sugar

It is well known that a diet high in sugar will lead to weight gain and the many health ailments associated with it – from high blood pressure to diabetes. However, in recent years, studies have been conducted to determine the true effects that sugar has on not only on weight, but also on the brain and other organs.

What goes up must come crashing down

A sugar addiction can cause an intense cycle of cravings and crashes that can damage the brain reward pathways. When every craving and/or sugar crash is rewarded with more sugar, your brain begins to lose its ability to control these cravings and build its tolerance to the sweet stuff. This tolerance will continue to build if this cycle is not stopped. This has been shown in a recent study involving children who are obese. When they tasted sugar, their brain activity responded differently than their counterparts who weren’t obese. The former group had an elevated (if not exaggerated) response to these foods, and were likely in danger of developing problems with sugar cravings later in life.

Dropping out of sugar-high

Diets that are high in sugar can also contribute to depression and anxiety. Sugar-rich foods trigger the release of serotonin in our brain, which leads to that “sugar-high” feeling. When our body finishes processing the sugar, we experience what many people refer to as a crash or sugar-low. When the supply of serotonin runs low through continued sugar peaks and dips, this can trigger mood swings, irritability, fatigue, and anxiousness. The end result? Fuel for fire if you battle a pre-existing depression and/or anxiety condition. In a study conducted at the Emory University School of Medicine, adolescent mice who consumed a high fructose diet exhibited many symptoms that are related to both depression and anxiety.

Food for thought (or not)

Sugar’s effect on the developing brain can also impair the brain’s ability to learn and remember. A study at UCLA in 2012 revealed that a high fructose diet damaged the synapses in the brains of rats, and in turn cause a slowing down in the brain. With these damaged synapses, their brains would have a much more difficult time learning and remembering as a result of their choice of daily fuel. With fructose’s effects on memory and learning, studies into the connection between high-sugar diets and dementia are showing that these two are much more closely linked than was previously thought.

Organs on overdrive

It’s not just your brain – or your waistline – that suffers the consequences of a sugar-rich diet. The heart, kidneys, and liver also experience damaging effects. A high intake of sugar puts our organs into overdrive in an attempt to effectively and quickly process the excess sugar in our blood stream. Over time damage can result, which can cause high cholesterol, compromised kidney function, and fat build-up on the liver. Not to mention, boost the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and cirrhosis of your liver.

Like any addiction or destructive behaviour, reaching out to a professional can help you break the cycle and start the path to a healthier life – one that is sugar-free, in this case. To book a complimentary consultation, call 416.921.CARE (2273) or email us today.

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