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.
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
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.