Sugar can often go by a number of different names like dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose or lactose. But it is still sugar. There are over 50 names often used for sugar. There are just two types of sugar when it comes down to it though.
There is good sugar found naturally in foods and there is bad sugar added to foods. The body needs good sugars from fruits and vegetables. After eating a meal, the body breaks down food especially glycogen, proteins, fats, carbohydrates and triglycerides which are all broken down into glucose. Cell function relies on glucose and if you are deprived of it, you can lose consciousness. After a meal, the body has a system which for breaking down foods and storing excess glucose in reserve.
All of our cells need energy to function and the neuron cells that make up the brain need glucose to provide energy in order to function. The brain uses about 20 to 25% of a person’s daily intake to work. When sugar is consumed, the taste receptors activate and send signals to the brain. The taste of sugar signals the brain and tells it about the great taste. This signal begins a series of actions starting at the bottom of the brainstem and extending through the hypothalamus to the forebrain. Dopamine, the feel good hormone, is released.
Importance of Glucose
Glucose is essential to helping cells function and survive. IT stimulates the reward pathway in the brain and makes you feel like life is all good. However, too much of it can be just the opposite. Is there an amount that is good? How much is bad? According to the recommendations of the American Heart Association, women should not eat more than six teaspoons of sugar and men should not have more than nine in a day. However, on average, most people eat about 22 teaspoons of additional sugar on top of the sugar that occurs naturally in the diet. As a result, dopamine receptors become desensitized and you need more dopamine to get those pleasant feelings.
How Glucose Affects Learning and Memory
Diets high in saturated fats and sugar promote oxidative stress which can cause cell damage. The hippocampus is especially sensitive to such a high-energy diet.
Being addicted to sugar is a real thing. But consuming it regularly causes desensitization of dopamine transmitters which keeps requiring more and more sugar to feel “rewarded.” This can change gene expression and create a harmful cycle that is difficult to stop.
Depression and Anxiety
Trying to break free from the addictive cycle can end up in various mood swings and being very irritable. Trying to eliminate sugar from the diet can be as symptomatic as drug withdrawals. You may experience headaches, cravings, chills, and anxiety.
Continuing on a diet with lots of sugar intake can change gene expression. This affects the basic function of a cell. It can impact the brain derived neurotrophic factor which is active in the hippocampus, forebrain, and cortex. This has a negative effect on learning and memory function. There is a correlation between having low BDNF levels and dementia, depression and Alzheimer’s. The latest research continues to reveal information about the negative effects excessive sugar intake has on the brain.