Sugar and your Brain

My last post told the stories of two women and their experiences getting off of sugar. Each woman had brain issues.  One became irritable and on a short fuse.  The other found she could think better as her brain fog lifted.  She also found her balance improved; very much a brain-coordinated function.

Sugar is an addictive drug. In The Week Magazine article on “Sugar, the New Food Villain” April 14, 2017 they quoted scientist James DiNicolantonio who said “When you look at animal studies comparing sugar to cocaine, even when you get the rats hooked on intravenous cocaine, once you introduce sugar, almost all of them switch to the sugar.”

Going cold turkey means stopping your consumption of sodas, cookies, candies, and processed foods. Many whole-wheat slices of bread have a teaspoon of sugar per slice. I could not believe this quote from the same article: “Heinz tomato ketchup contains twice as much sugar as Coca-Cola.”

Sugar affects your brain in several ways:

Depression is possibly the result of a high-sugar diet. One study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with a diet high in added sugar had an increased risk for depression. Taking in high amounts of natural sugars like the ones in fruit was not associated with higher rates of depression. This study included about 70,000 women.

Another effect is decreased cognition.

From Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute:  “Long-term diabetes—either type 1 or type 2—has many consequences for the brain and for neurons in the brain,” says Vera Novak, MD, PhD. High blood glucose levels can affect the brain’s functional connectivity, which links brain regions that share functional properties, and brain matter. It can cause the brain to atrophy or shrink. And it can lead to small-vessel disease, which restricts blood flow in the brain, causing cognitive difficulties and, if severe enough, spurring the development of vascular dementia.”

Dementia is complicated, and there is more than one form of it. Suffice it to say in both animal and human studies high sugar diets seem to cause more inflammation which leads to dementia.

Memory might also be affected by a high sugar diet. Animal studies show the hippocampus is the part of the brain associated with memory. In imagery studies of humans, those with smaller hippocampi have memory deficits.

Click to see the full article from Harvard Medical School here: 

If you have your own story about quitting sugar and its challenges, we would love to hear from you.  If you are having a hard time quitting, consider consulting me. Call my office, 310-289-8430.

About Cathie Lippman, M.D.

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