Everyone knows that the excess consumption of sugar, especially the processed form found in most of our snacks and desserts, can have a negative impact on our health. But, does that stop you from buying a box of cookies or a bar of chocolate when you are supposedly on a healthy diet?
Well, maybe the knowledge that, along with impacting physical health, sugar can disrupt mental well-being, it might motivate you to stop or at least control your sugar intake.
Sugar and Mental Health
Studies show that most Americans, nearly 75 percent, consume excessive sugar in their everyday diets in the way of sodas, candy, ice cream, cookies and more. This intake, unfortunately, is on top of the natural sugars that we get from carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains and fruits.
Sugar intake may be directly linked to weight gain, increased cravings, fluctuation in energy levels, sleeplessness and even faster aging. So, what would it do if you were also dealing with emotional and mental disorders like anxiety, stress and depression?
Consuming sugar could increase your symptoms and make you more miserable. After a sugar binge, the body releases more insulin to process the sugar and absorb the glucose and balance any spikes in blood sugar levels. The sudden high and quick lows can leave you feeling very irritable and tired. And, such a reaction cannot be good for people who already suffer from emotional ups and downs.
Let’s take a look at how sugar impacts your mental well-being.
Individuals dealing with depression, mild or severe, already have a tough time keeping their emotions under control and introducing excess sugar to this mix is not a good idea. It is seen that people with depression often rely on food, especially sweets, to cope with their moods.
While the sugar-laden treat may help them feel better temporarily, the effect does not last long and can push them into the darkness of sorrow, helplessness and loneliness.
Based on a study conducted last year, experts say that sugar has the ability to create an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain, leading to or increasing an already existing mental health condition. The study found that men whose sugar intake comprised 67 grams or more a day had a 23 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with depression in as little as five years. A similar link was found in women too.
Just like sugar can give children a high surge of energy, it can give people with anxiety an incredible high and an equally powerful crash, which will only increase their symptoms of anxiety. While not many studies have been conducted to look into this connection, experts think that sugar can hamper the body’s innate ability to deal with stress effectively. This can, in turn, increase anxiety.
Studies conducted by researchers at UCLA show that constant ingestion of sugary foods and beverages can eventually slow down cognitive functioning by affecting memory and learning functions; it could also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Some studies show that when people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks quit sugar, they might experience withdrawal symptoms similar to what people go through upon quitting cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. The common symptoms associated with quitting sugar are fatigue, confusion and anxiety. It is, therefore, recommended that people with emotional and mental disorders should consider reducing their sugar intake gradually instead of quitting cold turkey.
People with a sweet tooth might have a tough time giving up sugar, but maybe you could consider reaching for healthier snacks the next time you have a craving so that you don’t feel as guilty and as stressed out about your sugar intake.
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Lindberg, S. (2018, May 17). Your Anxiety Loves Sugar. Eat These 3 Things Instead. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-sugar-harms-mental-health#1