Sugar, it’s everywhere. Seriously, it’s in yogurt, flavoured waters, even granola bars. Just check the labels of your groceries and look for sucrose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose or starch – it’s all sugar. Besides that we know that sugar is bad for your health, have you ever wondered how it affects your brain? I found this awesome video that explains it perfectly, so allow me to explain it to you!
Ok, so let’s walk through the process. The moment something containing sugar (which is basically almost everything) hits your tongue, your sweet taste receptors are being activated. They then send a signal to your brain stem, which leads it to several spots in the so-called forebrain. Your cerebral cortex will recognize the taste of sweet, thereby pressing the ON button of your reward system. I’m sure you recognize that warm fuzzy feeling, making you think ‘ooooh this is SO good!’, making you want more of it. The same goes for socializing, sex and drugs – those also activate that same reward system.
We all have those days (at least once a month) when you’d like, no you need to eat everything you can find. However, you can also overactivate your reward system if you eat too much sugar too often. This results in you experiencing a loss of control, cravings, and an increase of sugar tolerance. That ain’t pretty, is it?
Next to that, sugar causes a release of dopamine in your brain, an important chemical which plays the star role in your reward system. Drugs like alcohol, nicotine and heroïne also cause a release of dopamine, but more violently than sugar. They send the release of dopamine in overdrive, leading some people to continue to seek that high. In other words, it’s addictive. Sugar thus works in a similar way, although way less extreme. If you eat too much sugar, the dopamine reaction in your brain will not level out, which makes it that eating sugar will continue to feel like being rewarded. However, let’s remark that eating a piece of chocolate cake every once in a while won’t make you an addict – you’ll be just fine 😉
Do you know even more about how sugar affects your brain? We’d love to hear!