Neuroscience – The Effect of Sugar on the Brain

It is recommended to keep sugar intake below 25 grams every day. However, when looking at nutrition labels, it can be extremely easy to go over the allotted 25 grams a day. Not only can an excess of sugar consumption lead to chronic diseases like diabetes but it has been proven to be detrimental to the brain as well. 

Excess consumption of sugar damages the brain. The hippocampus shrinks and becomes significantly smaller which is harmful because the hippocampus is an important part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning, memory, and motivation. Sugar also shrinks the brain as a whole which further deteriorates memory. A shocking finding is that individuals who replace sugary drinks with “diet” drinks like Diet Coke are almost three times more likely to suffer from a stroke or develop dementia. 

What can be used in place of sugary drinks? Although it can be a difficult adjustment at first, replacing sugary drinks with water, infused water (lemons, herbs, or fruits), sparkling water, kombucha, herbal tea, or smoothies can be very beneficial to the body. It is important to note that artificial sugars can destroy the microbiome as well and change the balance of bacteria found in the gut. This means that artificial sweeteners are essentially toxic to the gut and can leave an individual with more health problems. All in all, anything that has an effect on the gut has an effect on the brain due to the gut-brain axis, so it is important to recognize the connection and steer clear from anything that damages one or the other.