Sugar Can Harm Your Brain As Much As Extreme Stress Or Trauma
We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for your teeth or waist, but did you realize it can mean disaster for your brain? Research conducted on rats has shown that a high sugar diet causes changes to the region of the brain associated with emotional behavior and cognitive function.
Although this study was conducted on rats, the particular region of the brain is the hippocampus, and it is structurally similar in humans.
Early childhood trauma is known to significantly increase the risk of psychiatric illness in adulthood in humans. This is thought to be partly due to early life stress modifying the expression of genes controlling behavior and response to stress. Diet is another factor that can affect behavioral responses such as memory, anxiety and stress response. Earlier animal experiments have shown that diets high in sugar can cause impaired memory and dementia type changes to the brain.
In this particular rat experiment, researchers examined whether the negative impact of early life stress on the brain was made even worse by drinking high volumes of sugary drinks after weaning. The rats were observed until they were 15 weeks old, and then their brain was examined. The specific part of the brain analyzed was the hippocampus because it is important for both memory and stress.
Interestingly, the scientists saw that chronic consumption of sugar in rats who were not stressed produced similar changes in the hippocampus as in rats who were stressed but not consuming sugar. Both early life stress and sugar consumption led to lower expression of the receptor that binds the main stress hormone cortisol. This means both stress and sugar may reduce the ability of an individual to recover from exposure to a stressful situation.
The problem here is that eating sugar does have a temporary sedative effect, so stressed or anxious people are often drawn to sugar. Quitting sugar is one of the most difficult things to achieve for a lot of people because of its highly addictive nature. The benefits of quitting sugar are enormous for your overall health and your brain.
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