Eating too much sugar can have negative effects on the brain. To date it has been shown that it can be addictive, as well as triggering inflammation or emotional reactions.
Sugar can cause numerous health problems and also affect the brain. The most worrying thing is that it is the compound that is most often present in the foods we consume frequently. In addition, it has been identified that it can become as addictive as many drugs .
The above is explained in that sugar consumption goes through the same stages as addiction to other substances, and its neurobiological process is similar.
Sugar and brain / What is sugar?
Beyond the white table sugar that we all know, there are other types of sugars that may be present in food.
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of the word sugar, is that white sugar that we have in our house. This is sucrose and is the most common way we can find it .
But there are many more types of sugars depending on their chemical structure. Sugars such as fructose, galactose, glucose, maltose or lactose can be found naturally in food, or they can be added as sweeteners or preservatives.
These ways in which we can find sugar, manufacturers can introduce them into food through a wide range of names. Therefore, it is important to read the nutritional labels and know the synonyms of sugar.
80% of the processed products found in the supermarket contain hidden sugars that we consume without realizing it, these being the ones we really should avoid.
How does sugar work in the brain?
The brain consumes 5.6 milligrams of glucose per 100 grams of brain tissue per minute . In the brain of an adult individual, the greatest energy demand comes from neurons . For this, glucose is essential, unlike other cells, which also obtain energy from other sources.
Therefore, although the brain represents less than 2% of body weight, it spends up to 20% of the energy of the total glucose manufactured by the body, that is, it is its main consumer.
When foods that contain sugar are ingested, when they are introduced into the mouth and come into contact with the taste buds of the tongue, they send signals activating our sweet receptors in the brainstem and, from there, to different areas of our brain, where the received signal activates the brain’s reward system.
In the same way, in the digestive system there are also sugar receptors, which will send signals to the brain indicating whether there is a feeling of fullness or not. In this way, the effects caused by sugar in the brain explain why we might have difficulty controlling sugar consumption.
The consumption of sugar can cause addiction. This is because it produces a rewarding effect in the brain by activating the reward signals.
The main asset of our reward system in the brain is dopamine. Regarding this, it has been shown that if we eat foods rich in sugars, the response of dopamine by our brain does not level off.
Therefore, the more sugar we eat, the more reward signals our brain will continue to send, just like some drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
Because of this, every time we eat any type of sugary food, a gratifying sensation is activated in our brain, producing addictive effects on our brain.
Increase the risk of certain diseases.
We know that excessive sugar consumption is reflected in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, fatty liver, cancer, among others.
However, new findings have revealed that they can also have negative effects at the brain level, causing inflammation or emotional reactions, such as:
* Childhood hyperactivity
A study published in Scientific Reports , which included 264,000 adults over 50 years of age, with 10 years of follow-up, showed that people who drank more than 4 cans of sugary drinks every day had a higher risk of depression, hovering around 30%, compared to those who did not consume.
Excessive sugar consumption is associated with memory impairment and learning difficulties.
Another problem that people who consume excess sugar can suffer, according to scientific studies, is having a worse memory. This is because, when there are high blood glucose levels, the brain will try to metabolize it causing damage to the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is where ideas and memories are formed, organized and stored. In this way, the more sugar is provided to the brain, it will become increasingly saturated, so over time this could lead to neurological degradation, causing memory impairments and reasoning skills.
Conclusion on the effects of sugar on the brain
As science demonstrates, there is a strong relationship between the usual intake of sugar and a subsequent risk of suffering from a mental illness. This is because this substance can cause a neurotoxic effect in the brain.
Therefore, it eliminates or minimizes table sugar, ultraprocessed products, breakfast cereals, sauces and sugary drinks.