It is no secret that sugar can have devastating effects on cardiac health and the waistline. However, scientific studies have also been able to increase evidence that supports the theory that high levels of sugar have negative effects on a child’s brain, from psychological wellbeing to cognitive function.
A research study conducted at the University of Southern California found a disturbing connection between memory and sugary drinks. These refined drinks contain high levels of carbohydrates which if ingested in large quantities can cause metabolic disturbances. The study also found that increased sugar intake interferes with the ability of the brain to function normally, or even remember little details about one’s environment in the event that it’s consumed in large quantities before adulthood.
Researchers at UCLA conducted a study in 2012 on rats and one of the significant findings was that increased sugar intake also slows down the brain by slowing the brain down. They found that the rats which consumed too much fructose had damaged brain synaptic activity. Simply put, communication between the brain cells was impaired. Increased sugar levels tend to increase resistance to insulin, a hormone which is vital for brain functioning through blood sugar control.
Extreme levels of sugar in children can cause interference with neurotransmitters responsible for keeping moods stable. This often leads to depression and anxiety in children. Moreover, high sugar levels can cause inflammation of cells in an area of the brain known as hippocampus. This area plays a critical role in organizing and storing memories as well as connecting senses and emotions to those memories.
While this is a topic that’s still controversial, sugar has an addictive effect on children and adults alike. Like drugs, sugar floods the brain with dopamine, a feel good chemical, thus interfering with normal functioning of the brain. A study conducted at Yale University found that simple sight of a milkshake activated the same reward centers of the brain as cocaine does with addicts. In fact, another study conducted in 2007 found that study subjects (rats) preferred sugar water to cocaine.
While still on the subject of sugar levels, how much is too much? Generally, an average adult consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. In case you are wondering, added sugar refers to syrups and sugars that are added to beverages or foods after they are processed. In the case of children, quantities of added sugars above 4 tablespoons are unhealthy.