Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet… but, is it good for you?
Sugar has built a reputation as a guilty pleasure. While the ingredient is used to sweeten our favorite colas, candies and baked goods, it has also been linked to hyperactivity, diabetes, heart disease and other health-related difficulties. However, how sugar affects the brain is one topic that isn’t as widely discussed. So, what exactly happens up there when the sweet stuff enters your system?
According to an article on Psychology Today, ingesting sugar releases dopamine and opioids into the brain, causing us to feel a sense of happiness and pleasure. However, where those chemicals are released from (namely, the nucleus accumbens) is the same place where heroin has the same effect on the brain. Also, like heroin, more and more sugar is necessary to recreate the same level of joy.
The same article detailed a study on how sugar affect the brain and behavior of rats. The rats used in the experiment were starved for 12 hours before given sugar. Thereafter, the rats engaged in bingeing and evidence of sugar craving became evident. When the sugar was taken away again, the rats became more aggressive, anxious and lethargic. Call me crazy, but that sounds a lot like a sugar crash to me.
Granted, the jury is still out on whether sugar is addictive to humans. However the scientific evidence that sugar interacts with the addiction response centers of the brain cannot be ignored. Armed with this knowledge, then, it is to our benefit that we keep our sugar intake in check.
There’s nothing wrong with sweetening your coffee or having a baked good or even a piece of candy now and again. But other changes, such as swapping soda for water or saying ‘no’ to that second doughnut could make all the difference. Your body and your brain will thank you.