How Does Sugar Affect the Brain?

The average American consumes approximately one third of a pound of sugar each day, translating into nearly 130 pounds of sugar per person every year. As a nation sugar usage exceeds 9 million tons a year.  Sugar has been shown to speed up obesity and chronic diseases such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. But now new evidence is showing more and more the negative effect sugar has on our brain health, from cognitive function to psychological wellbeing. 


Sugar creates a viscous cycle of intense cravings. Sugar activates the tongue's taste receptors. Signals are send to the brain, lighting up reward pathways which causes a  spike in feel-good hormones such as dopamine.  

A study on rats in 2012 from scientists at UCLA found that a high amount of fructose hingers learning and memory by slowing down the brain. Researchers found the rats who over ate sugar had damage synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired. This high level of sugar intake caused rats to develop a resistance to insulin, which is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels and also regulates the function of brain cells. Insulin strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, helping them to communicate better and thereby form stronger memories. 

Sugar also can lead to depressive states or symptoms. You've experienced sugar crashes before right? This basically is where sudden spikes and spikes in blood sugar levels cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue. Sugary foods and high carb foods screw up the flow of neurotransmitters that keep our moods stable. 

A reduced-sugar diet has many benefits including weight loss, reduction in risk for diabetes, and decreased risk of heart disease.  A new study actually found that switching out just one sugary soda per day for water, or unsweetened coffee or tea – could lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, by 25%.  The findings are based on detailed food diaries from over 25,000 middle-aged and older British adults.  When the study started all participants were diabetes-free, but almost 1000 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by study end.  Overall, the study found that the more sugary soda people consumed, the higher their risk of developing diabetes. There was an increased risk of diabetes by about 22% for every extra daily serving.

Sugar Eats Up Important Nutrients

The following nutrients is what sugar eats up as our body breaks it down. Here are the causes of being deficient in these vitamins. 

• Vitamin C: Inability to heal wounds; frequent infections, colds, or flu; lung-related problems; easy bruising; tender, swollen joints; lack of energy; bleeding gums; nosebleeds; anxiety; tooth decay; visceral (belly) fat

• Calcium: Osteoporosis, osteomalacia, osteoarthritis, rickets, muscle cramping or pain, tooth decay, colon cancer risk, high blood pressure, PMS, sugar and salt cravings, bone pain, numbness or tingling in extremities, insomnia

• Chromium: Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, decreased fertility, diabetes, obesity, hypoglycemia, cold hands, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, cold sweats, need for frequent meals

• Magnesium: Sugar cravings, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, cramps, numbness, tingling, seizures, heart spasms, personality changes, increased heart rhythm, hypertension, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, constipation, insomnia, depression.