Numerous studies have created a wider understanding of the damaging effects sugar can have on physical health. However, not as many people are aware of the impact of sugar on their mental health. In addition to causing an inflated waistline, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, high sugar consumption can also increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
Sugar acts in more than one way to negatively affect our physical, emotional, and mental health. Like many other substances, such as alcohol, drugs, or even coffee, sugar can cause a heightened response. While it may provide short-term pleasure or appeasement, it negatively affects our immediate and long-term health.
Sugar Dependency and Mental Health
Like these products, it creates a habit or dependency that can become an addiction, meaning it causes problems when consuming it and in its absence. This is particularly true of the mental and emotional aspects of sugar consumption. Many people fall back on sweets, treats, and caffeinated soft drinks as comfort foods and mood elevators.
Although most will not like the analogy, it is not unlike a drug or alcohol addiction if this is unconscious or’ driven’ behavior. The absence of withholding of sugar from those who have created a dependency can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. This can evolve into depression and, in extreme cases, schizophrenia.
Blood Glucose Levels and Mood
High sugar consumption causes sudden peaks and troughs in a person’s blood glucose levels. Something as seemingly benign as a bottle of soft drink can cause a blood sugar spike and subsequent rapid insulin release, leading to a ‘sugar crash.‘ A steady supply of glucose in the brain is vital for it to function at its best.
Persistent and repeated sugar spikes and slumps can cause irritability, insomnia, fatigue, profuse sweating, and excessive thirst. Besides, sugar slumps will add to the difficulty of focusing on a given task and poor memory. To overcome this, those affected often treat the problem with another sugar hit.
A high intake of sugar elevates the levels of blood insulin. This will also raise the levels of endorphins in the system. And this why we have a feel-good response in the short term. Again, like most things that affect our emotional stability, resistance becomes an issue. This means it takes more sugar increasingly to achieve the same effects. At the same time, the increasing amounts do more and more damage.
Our brain constantly works to maintain homeostasis in our entire system; if anything spikes or affects the balance, it restores normality. Chronic sugar consumption can cause some of the brain’s endorphin sites to close to control the number of endorphins released. Again, this means that endorphin output can be restricted when it is most needed between sugar hits.
Unfortunately, reduced levels of endorphins have a causal effect on anxiety and mild to severe depression.
Sugar Affects the Brain’s Growth Hormones
A British Psychiatric researcher, Malcolm Peet, researched the link between a person’s diet and the emergence of mental illnesses. Some of the initial findings of his research indicate a solid connection between sugar consumption and higher risks of depression and schizophrenia.
The toxic effects of sugar, specifically refined sugar, were responsible for suppressing growth hormones called BDNF. BDNF hormones are crucial for the development and proper functioning of the brain. Research showed that people who have been afflicted with the symptoms of depression were found to have low levels of BDNF. Reduced levels of BDNF can adversely affect the development and growth of neurons. These result in poor communication and functioning of brain cells.
Sugar Consumption Causes Chronic Inflammation
Another factor that strongly links sugar consumption to depression is the ability of sugar to cause chronic inflammation. This will also cause disruptions in the normal functioning of the immune system. That can adversely impact your brain and increase your risk of depression. Sugar helps other toxins enter the person’s brain through indirect gut inflammation, but it can also enter the blood-brain barrier.
This will then lead to the release of cytokines into the brain, which causes an inflammation response. The presence of inflammation in the brain can adversely affect the proper functioning of neurotransmitters. This occurs particularly in the hippocampus, thereby affecting one’s mood, memory, learning, and reduced ability to perform other functions.
Decreased Consumption Is A Must
If you are affected by mood swings, anxiety or depression, strongly consider that your diet may be playing a big part in what you’re experiencing. Monitor your eating behaviors, especially those induced by stressful events. Be more mindful of your unconscious behaviors and take steps to reduce your sugar intake if you suspect it is adding to your problem.