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Why is Sugar Addictive? The Link between Sugar and The Brain

There is a prevalent theory that sugar consumption can give rise to addiction. One example of this view is stated in popular literature: "sugar addiction can be as strong as alcohol or drug dependency." Despite the fact that some of these opinions were dismissed by science experts, more recent studies of bingeing on sugar conducted in rats have documented findings that have been used to support the view that food is addictive. If such food addiction is established in humans, there would be various implications. Hence, the plausibility that addiction to sugar performs a big role in obesity, eating disorders, and food intake is considered.

Sugar and Brain: The Link
Glucose is a form of sugar and the main source of energy for our body cells. Since the brain is rich in neurons or nerve cells, it demands the most energy, utilizing 50% of the glucose energy in the body. On the other hand, the brain performs a lot of functions including memorizing, thinking, and learning. These functions are closely associated with the level of glucose and how efficiently glucose is used by the brain. If there is an insufficient amount of glucose in the brain, the chemical messengers needed in the brain are not produced. Hence, the communication between nerve cells breaks down. Moreover, hypoglycemia, a primary complication of diabetes triggered by low glucose levels, can result in energy loss for the brain to function effectively and is associated with poor cognitive function and attention.

Even though the brain requires glucose, excessive amount of this energy source can have adverse impacts. In a 2012 study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, they noted a positive link between fructose's composition and cell aging. In a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Montreal and Boston College, they noted the connection of excess sugar consumption to cognitive deficiencies and poor memory. The impacts of glucose and other sugars on the brain are highly profound among diabetic individuals. Diabetes is a disease in which the blood glucose level has reached unhealthy levels.

Reasons to Avoid Sugar
Many of us love sugar. Others say our sweet tooth is naturally inherent and that we will suckle because breast milk contains a form of sugar called lactose. However, sugar is known to be bad for our health and brings about various deleterious impacts on our wellbeing.

1. Sugar causes obesity due to the fact that it can easily be converted to fat.
Cereals, sodas, and donuts are some examples of foods that contain a high quantity of fructose, which can only be digested by the liver. It is also the liver that converts fructose to fat. Diets high in sugar can present serious risks, such as sleep disorders, hypertension, weight gain, slower metabolism, diabetes, and heart disease.

2. High intake of sugar is associated with Type 2 Diabetes.
Too much sugar can elevate the level of blood glucose in the body. When this happens, the pancreas becomes stressed to generate insulin in order to lower down the level of sugar in the blood. A diet containing high sugar eventually leads to a resistance to insulin. This means that for the body to reduce the level of sugar in the blood, it will need more insulin. Over time, our body cells become resistant to insulin, which eventually can lead to Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes.

3. Sugar will lead you to crave for more foods.
Sugar does not have the capacity to suppress ghrelin, a hunger hormone. As a matter of fact, it causes ghrelin and leptin, hunger and satiety hormones, to work inadequately as they leave the person in a hunger mode all the time. Ghrelin and leptin tell your brain that the foods you have consumed already exceeded the bodily requirement. Consuming too much sugar can stop ghrelin and leptin from functioning correctly. When this happens, no information is send to your brain to tell you that you have eaten a lot. Instead, your brain will always tell you to eat because you feel hungry. In the end, this cycle leads to weight gain.

4. Sugar gives you the feeling of sleepiness and tiredness.
As mentioned, the only organ in the body that can metabolize sugar is the liver. On the other hand, the pancreas is the organ responsible in producing insulin to balance sugar levels in the blood. When the two organs exert extra efforts to convert sugar to fats and produce insulin, the entire process often makes the person sleepy and tired. This is the main reason why one tends to feel tired after finishing a meal high in carbohyrdrates.


Benefits of Avoiding Sugar for Good

1. Reduces the risk of hypertension
Obesity is one of the primary outcomes of having too much intake of sugar and disposes one to hypertension. High blood pressure or hypertension causes the heart and arteries to exert more effort in distributing blood to the whole circulatory system. Over time, exertion of efforts can lead to serious damage and deleterious health impacts including heart attacks, stroke, artery disease, kidney damage, and other coronary diseases.

2. Lowers bad cholesterol
When you consume added sugars, the HDL or good cholesterol gets reduced while the LDL or bad cholesterol increases. Moreover, blood fats and triglycerides are increased. Blood fats and bad cholesterol clog up the blood vessels and the arteries, thus resulting in cardiovascular disease. People who consume greater quantities of added sugar are more predisposed to heart attacks than those individuals who consume less.

3. Increased sharpness of the brain
Eating foods with too much sugar content can lead to cognitive impairment and protein reduction, affecting your brain power. Proteins are needed for responsiveness and memory. A high sugar intake is also linked to metabolic syndrome, a condition responsible for changes in the structure of the brain.

4. Reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's
A diet that contains added sugar can affect the production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a chemical that aids the brain in making new memories and remembering past events. For individuals who have an impaired glucose metabolism, brain-derived neurotrophic factors are low. A continually low level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor can lead to dementia and Alzheimer's.

5. Reduces the incidence of depression
The human brain is completely reliant on insulin and glucose for memory, thinking, and learning. As sugar or glucose enters the body, insulin enables it to get into the cells. When the brain encounters sugar spikes continuously, the insulin develops immunity to its effects and becomes less effective. Eventually, this leads to anxiety and depression.

6. Breaks the addiction to anything sweet
Our brain has these so-called "feel-good" neurotransmitters called dopamine. Dopamine is released each time sugar is absorbed. When a person eats too much sugar, the healthy signaling of dopamine shuts down. Simply put, rather than signaling you to stop, the neurotransmitter will tell you to take in more sugar to experience pleasure.

7. Keeps skin look young and clear
Research studies suggest eating excessive amounts of sugar can cause the skin to become wrinkled and dulled. This is because of glycation in which the sugar in the blood links with proteins to produce advanced glycation products called AGEs. AGEs work by damaging the elastin and collagen, the protein fibers intended to retain the elasticity and firmness of the skin. Consequently, the damage leads to sagging and skin aging. Further, they deactivate the natural antioxidant enzymes of the body, leaving it more exposed to sun damage. Sugary foods that have a high glycemic index cause fluctuations in the hormones, which eventually lead to the severity of acne.

8. Reduces the risk for diabetes
Research suggests that consuming two sugary drinks daily can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Since the high insulin resistance is brought by too much intake of sugar, glucose, fructose, and other types of sugar will have difficulties getting into the body cells. They remain stuck in the blood thus resulting in diabetes.

9. Prevents fatty liver
Research claims that a diet rich in sugar can worsen fatty liver disease. The increase in insulin brought about by sugar conveys fat into the liver, thus causing scarring and inflammation. This disease is a risk factor for cancer, heart attacks, and diabetes.

10. Reduced risks of cancer
There have been no complete conclusive studies conducted to prove this claim, but various researches suggest that too much sugar in your diet can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Diets that are high in sugar content are inextricably associated with weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, and lots of other serious health conditions. Because of these reasons, it is important to ensure that the sugar intake is maintained at safe and sensible levels by completely avoiding added and processed sugars. By doing so, you will reap the benefits of a healthier body.

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