While sugar makes everything tastes amazing, it’s the culprit for many issues. Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. We’re aware of the health risks that too much sugar can increase, like obesity and type 2 diabetes, but we don’t always acknowledge the effects it has on mental health. Yet we all feel its effects casting a spell on us, that’s for sure. Maybe we don’t notice those feelings or relate them to sugar.
Interestingly enough, there’s a study that showed a connection between heavy sugar consumption and an increased risk of depression and worsened outcomes for individuals with schizophrenia. One explanation for this being that sugar suppresses activity of a hormone called BDNF, which is also low for individuals with depression and schizophrenia. Sugar also causes inflammation which leads to all sorts of chaos in the body, impacting the immune system, damaging the brain, and affecting other systems in the body. It also says something when countries who consume diets high in sugar also have higher rates of depression.
Another study, performed on rats by UCLA researchers, discovered that a diet high in sugar literally slowed down the brain, affecting memory and learning abilities. The rats who ate high amounts of sugar had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, impairing communication among brain cells. Those rats also developed a resistance to insulin. Insulin controls blood sugar levels and regulates brain cell function, helping them communicate better, which boosts memory strength. So with lower insulin levels in the brain, cognition and memory are impaired.
Eating more sugar also increases our symptoms of anxiety. Sugar will make some people more nervous, even leading to panic attacks. No one likes being anxious. People may also experience fatigue, irritability, dizziness, shaking, insomnia, brain fog, sweating, depression, crying spells, blurred vision, digestive issues, poor memory, and difficulty concentrating. For those with bipolar, sugar could accentuate mood swings. The rollercoaster ride of highs and lows from sugar does not help someone manage stable moods when they already experience ups and downs as it is.
While other foods ultimately convert to sugar in the digestion process, refined sugar does a lot of the damage. Converted sugars are necessary for functions within the body. However, we should eliminate refined and simple sugars. It’s recommended to eat a diet of complex carbs, whole grains, meats, and healthy fats. When someone quits eating added sugars, they experience withdrawal symptoms because the body is already addicted. The cravings will seem like torture, but resist the urge. Once past the cravings, you will experience mental clarity like never before. Your mind will be so clear, your mood will stable, and you’ll feel more present.