Cookies, crunchy candies, velvety cakes, cone ice-cream. Is your mouth watering? Are you craving deserts? Why? What happens when the brain makes sugary food so hard to resist.
Sugar is a general term used to describe a class of molecules called carbohydrates and it is found in the wide variety of food and drink. Just check the labels on sweet products you buy from the store; glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose and starch are all forms of sugar. So are corn syrups, raw sugar and honey. And sugar isn’t just in candies and deserts. It is also added to make a sauce, yogurt, dried food, flavor water. Since sugar is everywhere, it is important to understand how it effects the brain.
What happens when sugar hits your tongue and eating a little bit of sugar makes you crave more? You take a bite of cereal, the sugar it contains activate the sweet receptors in the tongue. These receptors send the signals up in the brain stem and from there it spreads in many areas of the forebrain. Different areas of the cerebral cortex tastes different tastes like salty, bitter, umami, and sweet. It also contains receptors like dopamine. Sugar causes dopamine to be released in high quantity. The sugar can have addicted effects on the brain. Increased dopamine would have adverse effects on the brain like anxiety, insomnia, mania, stress and paranoid personality disorder. This all in turn damages the brain cells which leads to the destruction of the memory.
Elevated blood glucose damages the blood vessels and this blood vessel damage is the major cause of vascular diabetes complications, such as retinopathy. The blood vessels in the brain can also be damages by hyperglycemia and there is the evidence that this damages leads to progressive decline in the brain function. Even those without the diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function. This effect is due to hyperglycemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, increased cholesterol associated with diabetes.
During insulin resistance, hyperglycemia slowed cognitive function and deficit to brain areas and the memory have been reported. The after effects of hyperglycemia are; mood states, anxiety, depression. In addition, to the damaging effects on the cognition and mood, sugar also has drug like effects in the reward system of the brain. In humans, high glycemic foods have been found to activate regions of the brain associated with the reward response. In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and self-control. We can prevent this damage by having sweet tasted fruits.