Effects of Sugar on Your Brain and Memory (+ 3 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Intake)

table full of different types of sugar - sugar and memory

Cupcakes, soda, and ice cream…oh my! Are sweet treats your weakness? You’re not alone. While we know that nothing in excess is good, consuming excessive amounts of sugar can affect you in more ways than just expanding your waistline. If you’ve ever experienced that midday slump, you know what I’m talking about. Sugar affects many brain functions including focus, mood swings, emotional and mental balance (rollercoaster, anyone?), and stress level. In addition, sugar can even have long-term and severe repercussions on memory and learning. Let’s explore how sugar and memory are connected.

According to the Washington Post, “in the United States, the average person consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day, which is slightly more than three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola.” This is 80% above the recommended intake. And most of the time, consumers are not aware that they are taking in more than they should.

Numerous studies have found a link between sugar and memory. Sugary drinks, poor memory and reduced brain volume in certain areas that are associated with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. And hold off on the Diet Coke and Stevia as well. Artificial sweeteners aren’t much better—studies have also found a link between these and a greater risk of stroke and dementia.

Sugar and Memory: Brain Aging and Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia & Stroke

The Boston University School of Medicine conducted a study with 4,200 people in which they periodically scanned their brains with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to test memory and cognition. The participants filled out questionnaires about their food intake and the results were shocking. People who consumed more sweetened drinks had inferior memory and reduced overall brain volume. This represented a year and a half to two years of additional brain aging in comparison to the people that did not consume sugary drinks.

Consuming one artificially sweetened drink per day can increase your likelihood to develop stroke and Alzheimer’s disease by almost three times. What’s more, people who have a diet based on bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruit juice, and sugar could have four times the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

spoon full of sugar - effects of sugar on the brain and memory

If you are concerned about the effects consuming sugar will have on your body, including your brain function and memory, here are a few recommendations to reduce your sugar intake.

1. Say No to Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks have almost no redeeming nutritional qualities to slow their absorption—you might as well just eat a spoonful of sugar (not to make the medicine go down). Sodas, fruit juices, drink mixers, sweetened iced tea… these are all huge sugar (and calorie!) traps. If you drink a lot of sugary beverages, start by cutting down the amount and swapping with sugar-free alternatives, such as water. Yes, water. Be wary of flavored waters and vitamin-enhanced waters since many of them contain sugar or artificial sweeteners.

2. Read the Labels

The best thing you can do to be more conscious of what you are consuming is to read the labels. The food industry has many tricks to sneak sugar into everything; from the pasta sauce you eat to bread and even milk-alternatives. Knowing is one way to win. It pays to read the labels of the products you consume. Most labels do not indicate the actual sugar content. One good rule to remember when reading product labels – items with higher concentration appear at the top of the ingredient list. So if you are seeing

3. Reduce Carbohydrate Intake

While carbohydrates are the main fuel source of the body and give us energy, when digested, carbohydrates are reduced to sugars. Depending on the type of carbohydrate and how it was prepared, this can affect your blood sugar causing hyperglycemia—sharp rises in the total amount of blood sugar. Over time, hyperglycemic states could cause diabetes, heart disease, and nerve damage.

From a slimmer waist to more elastic skin and healthier blood sugar levels, being cautious with our sugar intake offers numerous benefits. Knowing how sugar and memory are connected and what sugar does to our brain is another good reason to reevaluate our food choices.

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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