How Sweets Affect The Brain

Leticia Celentano Author: Leticia Celentano Time for reading: ~3 minutes Last Updated: November 25, 2022
How Sweets Affect The Brain

Normal brain work is impossible without energy. But another chocolate can turn into a bad mood and addiction stronger than cocaine.

Another chocolate can turn into a bad mood and addiction stronger than cocaine.

The brain consumes more energy than any other organ in our body, and glucose is its main source. But what happens to the brain when it is exposed to too much sugar, which is characteristic of the diet of most people today? In this case, "more" definitely does not mean "better". This is what sweets do to the brain.

1. Disrupts the reward system

Foods with a high glycemic index (that is, those that raise blood sugar more quickly) cause a more intense feeling of hunger and even an addiction-like feeling.


You have probably come across manifestations of this effect: after you eat a little sweet, you want to eat more and more. If you repeatedly give in to this urge, the reward system in the brain changes, which leads to even more overeating in the future.


The same process is at the root of all addictions: in order to get a reward (pleasant sensations), over time you have to constantly increase the amount of the substance. This is exactly what happens with sweets. Scientists have found that it can be even more addictive than cocaine. The result is an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, which is now observed in many Western countries.


2. Deteriorates memory

Regular consumption of large amounts of sugar causes inflammation, which leads to memory problems. This was confirmed by researchers who found markers of inflammation in the hippocampus of rats whose diet contained a lot of sugar. Rats with a normal diet did not have such markers in their brains.

Fortunately, this damage is not permanent. Other researchers have concluded that memory impairments caused by the consumption of sweets can be reversed. To do this, you need to follow a diet with a low sugar content and there are products with a low glycemic index. And if you also add healthy fats and curcumin to your diet, you will additionally improve your memory.

3. It negatively affects the mood


We are used to thinking that sweets lift our spirits, but this is not always the case. Scientists analyzed the eating habits and mood of 23 thousand people and noticed that a higher amount of sugar in the diet is associated with more frequent cases of depression.


And this is not the only example of how sweets affect the emotional sphere. People with type 2 diabetes report that when their blood glucose levels are high, they are more prone to sadness and anxiety.

But, as it turned out, it is more difficult for even healthy and young people to react to emotions if the sugar level is elevated.

4. Decreases mental abilities

Elevated blood glucose levels damage blood vessels, which gradually leads to other problems. Observation of people suffering from diabetes for a long time revealed progressive brain damage in them, which leads to impaired memory, learning ability and other cognitive functions.

Even in the absence of diabetes, consuming large amounts of sweets is associated with lower scores on tests of mental ability.


In addition, a diet high in added sugars (added to the food during cooking) reduces the production of the BDNF protein, which is necessary for the formation of new memories and learning. A low level of this protein in the brain is also associated with the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.


Scientific sources: Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function, source Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men., source Food reward system: current perspectives and future research needs, source Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward., source Short‑term exposure to a diet high in fat and sugar, or liquid sugar, selectively impairs hippocampal‑dependent memory, with differential impacts on inflammation., source A high‑fat high‑sugar diet‑induced impairment in place‑recognition memory is reversible and training‑dependent., source Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study., source

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