If we eat or drink a sugar loaded product, our taste buds and brain instantly acknowledge the sweetness. For most of us a sugary treat tastes good! Unfortunately, if we allow ourselves to eat sugary-laden foods all the time, our health will suffer, including our brain health.
The moment your taste buds recognize the sweetness, the brain is signaled. The reward pathways in the brain light up, triggering the release of dopamine. your happy hormones. This is why you feel good when eating something sweet.
The problem is, if you keep eating sugary foods, your brain’s reward system will be chronically activated. This puts you at risk of craving these types of foods every day, or as often as possible. You crave a sugar hit!
This is when you start to lose control and your body develops an increased intolerance towards the amount of sugar that you consume. If left unabated, you can develop a sugar addiction and will undoubtedly give in to all your cravings.
As neuroscientist Nicole Avena said, an over stimulated reward system of the brain will trigger the occurrence of several adverse reactions in your brain and body.
Sugar and Your Brain’s Neurotransmitters.
Eating sugary foods leads you to experience a sugar crash. Soon after eating sugar, whereby you may feel a rush of energy, the ‘crash’ occurs. This crash occurs as a result of your blood sugar levels plummeting. This is due to a panic release of insulin, as your body tries to protect itself from the influx of sugar.
This sugar crash manifests in the form of brain fog, irritability, fatigue and a change in mood. Once your body’s glucose levels dip, you are bound to feel moody, depressed and anxious. You may also feel suddenly very tired and want to lay down.
Part of the reason why this negative reaction occurs is because the sugar adversely affects your brain’s neurotransmitters. Not only does the sugar release dopamine, the excessive sugar consumption leads another hormone, serotonin, to be excessively produced as well. Once this hormone becomes depleted, your happy mood is depleted too.
Your sugary treats can have you twirling around in a vicious cycle, whereby you simply crave sugar again to boost your moods once more.
Sugar Increases Risk of Cognitive Decline.
Studies show that excessive sugar consumption slows down the brain and affects memory and learning.
Regular, excessive sugar consumption leads to the development of insulin resistance. This then leads to problems regulating the body’s blood sugar levels, and therefore increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Insulin plays a crucial role in strengthening the synaptic connections in between the cells of the brain. This is critical for better communication between the neurotransmitters and memory.
Once insulin production dwindles, cognitive processes may also suffer.
Evidence strongly indicates that the brain is one of the main victims of high sugar consumption.
Sugar Can become An Addiction.
When you consume sugar, the prefrontal cortex becomes activated and your feel good hormones, such as dopamine, are released. This sends a signal to your brain that it should remember this great feeling. As with any addiction, this is how it begins. It’s a ‘want more of’ feeling.
Sugar also activates the brain’s nucleus accumbens which is the pleasure center. If it is turned off, this is when the person may develop depression, alternatively, if it is stimulated, by consuming sugar for example, then ‘the want more of’ (addiction of the substance) may begin.
As this cycle occurs, the signal being sent to the pleasure center becomes weaker. This makes you consume even more sugar in order to feel that wonderful experience again. As you can see, the sugar consumption is no longer filling the void it once did, and the more it is consumed, the more health issues arise.
The reason it becomes an unhealthy addiction is because the sugary foods leads the brain to create a path that becomes easy to activate. This newly developed path or circuit serves as a shortcut to pleasurable feelings, each time sugar is consumed. Unfortunately, this circuit will eventually become the brain’s default path, and this translates to addiction.
Chronic consumption of sugar foods can also cause your brain to not recognize signals that you should stop eating. The sugar dulls the signals the brain’s need to keep you and your body healthy. This is in part because excessive sugar consumption leads to the reduction of oxytocin, which plays a role in preventing binge eating.
There lies the vicious cycle to a sugar addiction and the health of your brain. The more you eat, the more you crave, and the more you eat the more damage to your brain’s health.