Refined sugar has become quite a staple in our food supply. In fact, right now, the average American consumes about 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year (that’s not including other refined sugars). This is an outstanding amount of refined sugar. Let’s take a look at how these sugars can effect our brains.
What Sugar Does to Us
Researchers at UCLA have just released their findings on sugar and the effect it has on our brains. The study involved two groups of mice being fed high fructose, one of the most common sweeteners in our food. One group of mice were also fed some brain supporting Omega-3’s to see if the sugar could be counteracted.
Before the mice were fed the sugars and fatty acids they spent five days learning their way through advanced mazes. Once they had figured the mazes out they were put on this high fructose diet for six weeks. They were then put through the mazes again to see how much was retained and if any of their learning ability had waned.
“The DHA-deprived [Omega-3] animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats’ ability to think clearly and recall the route they’d learned six weeks earlier.”
A closer look at the brain activity revealed the non omega-3 group showed signs of resistance to insulin which helps control blood sugar and regulates brain function. Eating too much sugar can hinder the insulin’s ability to regulate how our cells use and store sugar which is crucial for processing thoughts and emotions.
What Can We Do?
The best way to keep the effects down is to reduce the amount of sugar and high fructose corn syrup we consume. This means cut down on soda, chips and other snacks that contain sugar. There are many healthy alternatives that can be found at health food stores.
Start drinking kombucha or non-dairy kefir. These are two great digestive aids that will help reduce cravings of sugars and salts. When your digestive tract is happy the rest of your body is flying high.
Be sure to get enough of your essential fatty acids. There are plenty of great ways to get enough omega fats in your diet.
Try to find foods that are less processed. Look at the label and see how many ingredients there are and if there are chemical preservatives or “natural flavors,” beware. Find the foods that just have a couple of ingredients that you know and understand.
Try to think of whole foods rather than food isolates like sugar and salt. Nature has already given us perfectly wrapped fruits and vegetables that are sweet and have everything you need to digest and use their sugars perfectly.
Be patient. Your taste buds have been assaulted by sugar and other flavor enhancers for so long that your brain has developed a dependency on them. After a few weeks of getting away from these flavors your taste buds will change and you will enjoy a nice juicy peach more than you ever thought you would. It took me about 4 weeks to kick the sugar cravings and now I don’t have those cravings anymore.
Ask us for advice on lowering your sugar intake. We have all gone through the process of getting away from the more refined sugars and have found some great alternatives.
The Bitter Truth About Sugar
This is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. It is just a lecture but it is packed with so much mind blowing information from Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.
This is another great one to check out for a background of the whole sugar business.