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What Sugar Does to Your Brain & Body: The Truth About Sugar - Thomas DeLauer
Sugar’s Effect on the Body
1. Inflammation, Joint Pain, and Aged Skin
High sugar foods have been shown to lead to inflammation in the body, which can increase the susceptibility of individuals to these diseases and can also worsen symptoms for those already suffering from them.
Scientific surveys have also found that increased sugar consumption, in particular sugar filled soda, may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and may worsen symptoms (RA). 1,2
The inflammation caused by sugar not only impacts our health, but also our skins look and feel.
When sugars attached to proteins in your bloodstream, advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are formed. These harmful molecules age your skin through causing damage to the elastin and collagen. This leads to more wrinkles and sagging skin.3
2. Heart Health
When you consume simple sugars, the boost of insulin in the bloodstream can cause artery walls to grow faster than normal and lose their elasticity.
Over time, this can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease.
Additionally, research suggests that consuming less sugar may help to lower blood pressure, which is a major heart disease risk factor.
Studies have found that those who eat a lot of sugar (25% or more of their calories as added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease when compared to those who consume 10% or less of their total calories from sugar.4
Sugar’s Effect on the Brain
Sugar shares many similarities with drugs of abuse.
In rat studies sugar has been found to lead to signs of dopamine sensitization and opioid dependence, including cross-sensitization with alcohol and amphetamine, neurochemical and behavioral signs of withdrawal, and alterations in dopamine and my-opioid receptors.6
When you eat sugar, you brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes you to feel good.
Whole foods, even fruits, do not cause the release of the same quantity of dopamine as processed, sugary foods, such as donuts.
As time goes on, your sensitivity to dopamine decreases, causing your brain to need more to feel the same amount of pleasure.
This is what causes addiction cravings to sugar.
Studies have linked high sugar consumption to depression risk in adults.
This leads to the following question: does sugar lead to depression, or does depression influence sugar intake?
Case Study: Sugar Impacts and Adverse Effect on Long-Term Psychological Health 7
In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers sought to determine if sugar consumption leads to common mental disorder (CMD) and depression or if the reverse is true, that individuals suffering from CMD and depression are more likely to eat sugary foods.
Through analysis of repeated measures for 23,245 person-observations from the Whitehall II study, mood was assessed using validated questionnaires and diet through food frequency questionnaires.
Researchers found that neither depression not CMD predicted the intake changes found during their analysis where positive associations between sugar consumption and CMD and depression were found.
This led the researchers to conclude that dietary sugar intake has an adverse effect on long-term psychological health, including both CMD and depression.
So How Much Sugar is too Much?
Currently the average adult consumes roughly 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is far more than the American Heart Association recommends: no more than 6 t/day for women and 9 t/day for men.5
Remember that this is added sugar, so not the natural sugars found in fruits,
1. Diet and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: survey results from a rheumatoid arthritis registry
2. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women
3. Advanced glycation end products
4. Relationship between added sugars consumption and chronic disease risk factors: current understanding
5. Added sugars add to your risk of dying from heart disease
6. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell
7. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospectiv
e findings from the Whitehall II study