How sugar affects the brain – Nicole Avena

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claims that the average American consumes roughly 156 pounds of sugar a year, or 34 teaspoons of sugar a day more than our bodies need. These amounts go above and beyond the recommended daily serving size. While our bodies certainly need glucose for normal body and brain functions, consuming too much sugar can be detrimental. Knowing how our body turns glucose into fuel and the reasons sugars are necessary to its function can help us understand how to manage it in our diets. In the long run, understanding why we need sugar and how much is the right amount will help us all lead healthier and longer lives.A lack of sugar means communication between these imperative cells breaks down, and cognitive function is impacted. It can also cause hypoglycemia, a complication of diabetes caused by low glucose levels. Diets high in sugar also reduce the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors or BDNF. BDNF assists in the connections between nerve cells also known as synapses. Without this key protein, growth, development, and communication between these nerve cells becomes impaired. When these synapses are unable to communicate properly, a decline in multiple neurological functions can be seen. Further research has linked BDNF to degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Americans consume more than 20 teaspoons of sugar a day; that’s well above the American Heart Association’s recommended 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 for men. Added sugar can be found at high levels in most processed foods. To reduce sugar consumption, becoming familiar with nutrition facts found on packaged foods is a must.
How Sugar Affects the Brain