A new study done at the University of Kansas Medical Center says that sugar is affecting your brain and why you should limit your intake of sugar. The study reveals that people who drink soda have lower levels of good cholesterol compared to those who drink water, and this can lead to brain damage. To make matters worse, it shows that the longer you drink soda, the worse the damage to your brain becomes.
In a new study, mice given a high-sugar diet for 12 weeks showed signs of cognitive impairment, including a reduction in learning and memory, compared to mice that were fed a standard diet. Working with a sugar mouse, the researchers fed the animals a diet with high levels of sucrose and fructose. A control group of mice was fed a standard diet. After 12 weeks, the mice that were fed the high-sugar diet had less sucrose and fructose in their brains compared to the mice who ate a healthy diet. According to the authors of the study: “Our findings imply a need for caution about the continued consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar-rich foods, at least for the time being
Eating a lot of simple sugars isn’t a light thing to do, but it’s not just a harmless snack. These sugars can be easily stored in the body to become fat. These then act as a trigger for the body to store fat elsewhere. What’s more, as sugar is processed in the body, it increases the amount of a hormone called insulin, which regulates the body’s blood sugar. This hormone, for example, helps to lower blood sugar levels after a meal that has protein, but it also promotes fat storage. So, if the body has a lot of sugar to dispose of, it starts to store them as fat. The stronger the sugar urge, the more fat is stored.
The majority of people have heard that sugar is harmful for you, but how does it affect your mental health?
Sugar, flour, fruit juices, and processed grain goods are rich sources of quickly digested carbs that may increase blood sugar (glucose) levels. This results in a significant increase in the hormone insulin, which attempts to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
Because the glucose in the brain increases and falls in proportion to the glucose in the blood, these glucose oscillations also occur in the brain.
These dramatic fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels may have three major consequences for your brain and body chemistry.
Refined carbs may mess with your hormones and make you feel bad.
Insulin is a signaling hormone that influences many other hormones in the body, which is why it’s so difficult to maintain steady insulin levels. These hormones may increase or decrease in response to changes in insulin.
Let’s say you start your day with high-refined-carbohydrate meals like orange juice, a bagel, or cereal. Blood sugar (glucose) levels increase within half an hour, prompting the pancreas to produce insulin into the circulation, which removes excess sugar from the blood and stores it in the cells. You may feel weary, distracted, and hungry an hour after your blood sugar decreases.
A fast decrease in blood sugar is seen as a possible emergency by the body, which produces a cocktail of hormones to keep blood sugar from falling below normal levels. Cortisol, an essential stress hormone, and adrenaline, a fight-or-flight hormone, are both present in this combination.
Many individuals consume refined carbs at every meal and as snacks, causing hormonal fluctuations throughout the day and even at night. Symptoms may include variable energy levels, trouble focusing, mood changes, overeating, irritability, anxiety attacks, and sleeplessness, depending on the individual.
However, even if you don’t notice any outward signs, issues may develop on the inside when regular rhythms are disturbed in ways that can lead to future health problems slowly and silently. Read Stabilize Your Mood with Food for additional information, including graphs of sugar and hormone trajectories under various diets.
Refined carbs have been linked to increased oxidation and inflammation.
Oxidation and inflammation are characteristics of many chronic illnesses, including mental illness, and high blood sugar may cause them.
What exactly is oxidation?
Our cells rely on chemical processes to turn food into energy, which need oxygen molecules, which may be broken down into free radicals during digestion. Little bulls in a china shop, that’s how free radicals are. If left uncontrolled, they collide and react with nearby structures and DNA, causing internal cell harm (oxidation).
Mother Nature has given us with our own internal antioxidants to eliminate excess free radicals since some degree of oxidation is natural and essential. These built-in antioxidants are adequate to maintain the equilibrium between oxidation and antioxidant activity and avoid cell damage under typical conditions.
Sugary meals and beverages have the disadvantage of delivering too much glucose at once, resulting in more free radicals than our natural antioxidants can manage. Excessive oxidation has been linked to depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
We’re frequently taught that the best way to prevent oxidation is to consume colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Most naturally occurring plant antioxidants, on the other hand, are poorly absorbed by the human body, and it is unclear if they are helpful.
Refined carbs, on the other hand, may deplete our natural antioxidants, making us feel as though we need more antioxidants than we currently have. Wouldn’t it be better to consume no pro-oxidants instead of purchasing antioxidants? Read the Antioxidants Myth to discover more about the benefits and drawbacks of antioxidants.
What is inflammation, and how does it affect you?
When our immune system is exposed to oxidative stress, it produces an inflammatory reaction. It’s not the type of inflammation that causes the brain to swell, become red, or pain, but tiny inflammation. There’s a lot of evidence that there’s a connection between inflammation and depression, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia.
When cells are under distress, they produce pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which may be detected in the blood. People with affective and psychotic illnesses have greater amounts of these chemicals.
In this extensive section on inflammation, you can learn more about the potential causes and negative consequences of inflammation.
Inflammatory cytokines may harm surrounding brain cells and create chemical imbalances in the brain, disrupting the normal synthesis of important neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, which are involved in mental illnesses. Although there are no clinical studies that demonstrate a connection between contemporary diet and mental disease, the routes of sugar to oxidation and inflammation may help establish a link.
Refined vegetable and seed oils, such as soybean and sunflower oils, may lead to excessive inflammation, according to mechanistic hypotheses. However, a comprehensive analysis of randomized trials showed no indication that linoleic acid, the primary omega-6 fatty acid present in seed oils, promotes inflammation in healthy individuals. These oils may be found in a variety of processed meals, ranging from high-carbohydrate items like chips and pastries to low-carbohydrate items like mayonnaise and salad dressings.
Omega-6 fatty acids aid in the intensification of the inflammatory response to oxidative damage, injury, and infection, while omega-3 fatty acids aid in the reduction of inflammation.
When these two forces are in balance, they are most effective. In comparison to our hunter-gatherer forefathers, contemporary diets are not just high in omega-6 fatty acids, but also low in omega-3 fatty acids. Many mental disorders are linked to a deficiency in these important fatty acids.
Many research have looked at whether anti-inflammatory medicines may be used to treat affective and psychotic illnesses, and they have shown that they can be helpful in certain cases. But, rather than using costly and perhaps harmful medications to mask symptoms, why not start by eliminating highly processed foods?
What we know about vegetable oils and what we don’t
Tips Grove oils are quickly becoming one of our primary sources of calories. Is this a positive thing? Let’s take a look at what we know and what we don’t.
Insulin resistance is exacerbated by too much sugar.
Insulin resistance is emerging as a potentially significant component in the development of many of the mental health issues we dread, ranging from basic illnesses like depression to complicated brain degenerative disorders like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As sad as it may seem, realizing that insulin resistance has a significant impact on the likelihood of mental illnesses offers a huge opportunity, since insulin resistance is a well-known beast that we already know how to control.
A high-sugar diet puts the pancreas under strain, requiring it to generate huge quantities of insulin to keep blood sugar under control. If cells are exposed to high amounts of insulin too frequently, the receptors that transmit insulin instructions may get damaged and reduced in number, making it more difficult for cells to react to crucial insulin signals.
Insulin receptors responsible for insulin transport from the blood to the brain may not work effectively in individuals with insulin resistance, restricting insulin flow to the brain. Glucose may still flow freely to the brain in insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, but insulin has a hard time getting there.
When there isn’t enough insulin, brain cells can’t effectively digest glucose and slow down. Cerebral glucose hypometabolism, or the issue of delayed glucose processing, is a common characteristic of many brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
How might a low-carb diet help with brain metabolism?
If high blood sugar and insulin levels impact brain health via inflammation, oxidation, and insulin resistance, then decreasing blood sugar and insulin levels may help. A rising amount of scientific evidence suggests that a ketogenic diet may cure all of these key metabolic abnormalities, and therefore offers tremendous potential for the nutritional therapy of mental illnesses.
Carbohydrates are the most effective in raising glucose and insulin levels, whereas fats are the least effective. As a result, it’s not surprising that a low-carb, high-fat diet is one of the most effective strategies to combat these causes of brain damage, restore brain metabolism, and protect the brain from future harm.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to entirely eradicate seizures in some children with epilepsy and substantially decrease the frequency of seizures in others for almost a century. Although the precise mechanism is unclear, the findings strongly indicate that low-carbohydrate diets may improve brain chemistry.
The brain is a highly busy organ that requires a steady supply of good food. While it is true that some of its fuel must be in the form of glucose, this glucose does not have to originate from the diet’s carbs.
According to the American Council on Food and Nutrition, the lowest limit of carbohydrate in a diet that is compatible with life seems to be zero, as long as sufficient protein and fat are eaten. The liver can generate glucose and transport it into the circulation for all the cells that need it, including those in the brain, via a natural process called gluconeogenesis.
Insulin levels drop when carbohydrate intake decreases. Your body shifts from burning sugar to burning fat when your insulin levels are low enough. The liver produces fat-like molecules called ketones into the circulation to provide fuel for your cells, which is known as ketosis. A blood ketone meter may be used to see whether you’re producing ketones.
Fatty acids can be used by muscle cells and most other cells in the body, but not by brain cells. As a result, ketones are substituted. Ketones are a great source of energy for your brain. They burn faster and produce less oxidation and inflammation than glucose.
Although certain fast-acting brain cells need some glucose (due to the fact that glucose burns quicker than ketones), ketones may provide up to two-thirds of the brain’s overall energy requirements. There’s also evidence that most brain cells burn ketones rather than glucose, making ketones the brain’s preferred energy source.
Insulin resistance in the brain makes insulin delivery more difficult, but it does not prevent ketones from reaching the brain. As a result, the higher the ketone levels in the blood, the higher the ketone levels in the brain, and the more ketones the brain cells can absorb and utilize for energy.
Ketones also burn efficiently in a low-insulin environment, making them an excellent fuel source for insulin-resistant brains.
Diet and mood are linked
A contemporary diet rich in sugar and processed carbohydrates may be a possible role in mental health issues, from fluctuating glucose and insulin levels to oxidation, inflammation, and insulin resistance. See our guide The Link Between Diet and Mood for additional information on how a low-carb, whole-foods diet may help cure some mental health problems.
If you’re dealing with mental health problems and taking medication, our article on low-carb diet and mental health: Starting and managing your medicines has a lot of useful information. We also offer a frequently asked questions section that addresses common concerns and questions regarding the link between diet and mental health.
/ Georgia Ede, M.D. / Dr. Georgia Ede, M.D.
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The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It is responsible for all our mental functions, including cognition, memory, emotions, behavior, and personality. As such, it is prone to damage and damage is known to cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.. Read more about sources of glucose for the brain and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are two ways sugar affects the brain?
Sugar affects the brain in two ways. First, it causes a temporary increase in blood glucose levels which can cause a release of dopamine and serotonin. This is what makes sugar feel so pleasurable to eat. Second, sugar can cause an insulin spike which leads to a decrease in the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) by neurons. This leads to decreased neuronal growth and function.
Can brain damage from sugar be reversed?
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a little more complicated.
What are the negative effects of sugar?
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that can cause negative effects on your health. These include an increase in blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, and weight gain.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- effects of sugar on the brain
- sugar brain damage
- sugar and the brain
- how does sugar affect the brain
- what does sugar do to your brain