Regardless of age, everyone enjoys sugar. While sugar can provide a quick energy boost, its impact on the brain is astonishing. These impacts can be both positive and negative. In this article, we shall explore some interesting facts about sugar and how it affects different parts of our brains.
The history of sugar consumption dates back thousands of years. India, Greece and China were among the first ancient civilisations to harvest and process sugarcane to use as a sweetener.
In the 8th century, sugar production and consumption spread to the Arab world, where it was further developed and refined. In recent times during the industrial revolution, new technologies and processes made sugar production more efficient.
Afterwards, for a variety of reasons, the taste got widespread favour. Availability, affordability, marketing and advertising, cultural influence, the evolution of taste, etc., can be named when it comes to the reason behind the scene.
It is estimated that today an average person takes about 15-30 teaspoons of sugar daily, which is significantly higher than the recommended limit of 6-9 teaspoons. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global average sugar intake is about 10 per cent of the total energy intake.
Have you ever wondered why you feel a sudden mood boost after having your favourite ice cream or the can of cola that you know is harmful?
It is because, in the brain, sugar first affects the release of neurotransmitters, more specifically, dopamine and serotonin. These hormones are well-known for their ability to make us feel good. They can also play a role in regulating mood, appetite, and motivation.
The release of these feel-good hormones contributes to the pleasurable feeling people associate with eating sugar. This is the exact reason sugar becomes an addiction to some people, making them lose control over sugar consumption despite knowing the harm.
Additionally, as these hormones give us a rewarding feeling, chronically consuming too much sugar can alter the dopamine system in the brain, which may make the brain less sensitive to the rewarding effects of sugar. Due to this, there may be a higher chance of experiencing sugar cravings and addictive traits.
It has been seen that sugar consumption is linked to an increased level of oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which can eventually result in brain ageing and the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Another important part of the brain affected by sugar is the ‘hippocampus.’ This part is responsible for learning and storing memory.
Researchers have found that high sugar intake is associated with memory loss and learning impairment. It is believed that the elevated quantities of insulin that are generated after consuming sugar may interfere with the hippocampus’s ability to function properly.
However, it is essential to remember that sugar is a vital food element with lots of benefits if taken in a moderate amount. There are several ways to limit sugar intake.
For example, reading the food labels, choosing healthier snacks, being mindful while having meals, cutting off soda intake, lowering white sugar intake and so on.
Although it is questionable how much sugar a person actually needs, one can undoubtedly indulge occasionally in their favourite dessert.