What Does Sugar Do to Your Brain?

Robin Berzin, MD

We know that too much sugar is bad for our gut health , waistlines, and even heart health. But overconsumption of sugar impacts the brain too.

Your brain actually needs sugar to function, because it’s the most metabolically active organ in your body, but you don’t need to eat sugar to fuel your brain. Your body actually makes sugar out of the healthy foods you eat. In fact, if you eat too much sugar, it can actually impair brain function.

Negative side effects of eating too much sugar include everything from brain fog and trouble concentrating to anxiety and depression. While sugar in small amounts from natural sources is not a major concern, most people are eating too much of the sweet stuff and could benefit from cutting back.

The hard part is, sugar is addictive. It hits the same reward centers in the brain that cocaine does. So when you eat a lot of sugar, you want more. That can lead to crashes and spikes in your blood sugar. Sugar can also cause inflammation throughout the gut and immune system that research has directly linked to depression and anxiety.

How sugar impacts the brain

  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Energy imbalances
  • Jitters
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Here’s how to cut down on sugar.

1. Reduce the amount of caffeine you have.

Drinking a lot of caffeine (even with no added sugar) can also lead to highs and lows in your energy, which can cause you to crave more sugar.

2. Change the way you eat sugar.

Instead of an all out sugar binge, be mindful about how you’re eating sugar. When you feel like you need some sugar, try a little bit of 80 percent dark chocolate or a low glycemic fruit like berries to give yourself a taste of sweetness without going overboard.

3. Try an herbal tea.

I love sipping cinnamon or ginger tea to curb a sweet tooth. Not only do they satisfy that craving, but they also balance blood sugar instead of raising it.
Making these changes can be a powerful tool for improving your brain health.

Robin Berzin, MD

Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

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