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Does Sugar Make You Stupid?

Posted by Sue Serre on

Strange question indeed. In this article we'll explore how sugar (and stress and stimulants) can affect cognitive functioning. When we feel stressed out we often reach for comfort food or self medicate which is usually carbs and sweets, alcohol and caffeine. These all cause blood sugar imbalance, interrupting glucose supply to the brain robbing it of fuel.


These high glycemic foods or beverages, cause a marked spike in blood sugar, our pancreas then secretes insulin to bring the blood sugar back down (to maintain homeostasis) and we then experience the sugar 'crash'. The crash is characterized by confusion, blurred vision, irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, inability to multi-task and cravings for more of the same to bring blood sugar back up. This clearly affects cognitive function and our ability to think straight.


This constant yoyo affect can lead to insulin resistance - the body not being able to produce enough insulin to keep things stable. High levels of sugar circulating in the blood results in something called 'glycation'. The cells become sticky if you will ( like when you spill sugar on the counter and it becomes sticky ) and cellular communication is impaired. It's this glycation that produces "Advanced Glycation End Products AGEs) resulting in cellular damage and inflammation throughout the body, including the brain - basically accelerating the aging process. This effect can be seen in diabetics who do not control their blood sugar resulting in diabetic neuropathy, blindness and amputation.


Sugar is also an 'anti-nutrient' meaning it causes the depletion of nutrients - the very ones we need for stress and cognitive function like B complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. These nutrients are all needed for neurotransmitter production and a crucial process called methylation. Without these nutrients, concentration, memory and mood are impaired. Caffeine, alcohol and stress also deplete these crucial nutrients.


Reducing sugar in all of its forms, including refined carbohydrates (whether gluten free or not), juices and alcohol, will go a long way to helping you achieve optimum brain function. Consider becoming "keto-ish" by replacing some regular baked goods with keto-friendly recipes. And of course supplementing with magnesium, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, zinc and omega 3 fish oil will give your brain the tools it needs to perform the way you want it to - smart and sharp!