Everyone knows that too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain, but what about the negative neurological effects sugar has?
Sugar is everywhere, people are generally eating way too much of it, and few people realize that trends in recent research indicate that a diet high in sugar can be harmful to much more than your waistline.
From depression, to learning disorders, and memory function, recent studies show that overconsumption of sugar is destroying our brain.
The United States Department of Agriculture recently completed a Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption that demonstrated the extent of our sugar overconsumption problem.
According to the study, average Americans consume 156 pounds of sugar each year(1). They call it “added” sugar, which means that it doesn’t come from natural sources or foods. Instead of sugars from fruits, those 156 pounds are coming from the bags of sugar on store shelves.
Sugar Influences Your Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factors
So what does that have to do with the brain? Blood glucose powers brain function. Diets high in sugar influences brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) that play a critical role in special memory tasks in the human brain.
A 2002 study in the journal Neuroscience, investigated the connection between high sugar diets and BDNFs and concluded that the current “popularly consumed diet can influence crucial aspects” of BDNF function(2). Further study demonstrated that low BDNF levels are tied directly to diabetes, dementia and depression(3).
Neurological Degenerative Illness
Trends in Neurosciences published an article that links BDNF and serotonin co-regulation of neurons to Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease(4).
The study recommended dietary considerations as a way to maintain appropriate levels of BDNF during aging to prevent neurological degenerative illness. A 2008 study demonstrates that BDNF and Serotonin also play a role in mood disorders(5).
Too Much Sugar Reduces Cognitive Function
The most startling fact about sugar overconsumption is that children are the primary over-consumers. While 5% of a daily diet should come from sugars, added sugar accounted for almost 20% of caloric intake for American adolescents in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study(6). Could sugar be contributing to the rise in learning and behavioral disorders in children?
While researching learning disorders, scientists have only focused on the immediate impact of sugar on cognitive function. BNDF levels, however, have been linked to brain function and learning ability(7). High levels of blood glucose are harmful to BDNF—which is linked to cognitive ability in humans(8).
Decreasing sugar intake is vital to maintaining cognitive function. If you have a high sugar diet already, it’s going to be difficult to get it down.
At first you might face some trouble, particularly because research proves that your appetite is linked to your sugar intake(9). High levels of added sugar make you feel hungry, potentially causing you to consume even more sugar.
Use this added motivation to press forward and improve your diet. Get rid of unnecessary added sugar, consume sugar from natural sources like fruit, and remember that the harmful effects of over-consumption go far past weight gain—sugar causes harmful neurological problems too.