How many of you remember those commercials from the 1980s that showed an egg frying with the caption, "This is your brain on drugs"? That was part of a public service announcement to implore people not to use drugs. If a similar commercial were to be made today, the caption could read, "This is your brain on sugar," with an image of an obese child or adult.
We are all aware of the shocking statistics: One-third of kids are overweight or obese and two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese -- and the numbers continue to rise. I stress over and over in Beyond Diet that you should eliminate all unnatural sugars from your diet, and scientific studies support the role of sugar in weight gain.
This may get confusing for a moment, but stick with me. Fructose is a simple sugar that our bodies use for energy, and the small amount of fructose in fruits and vegetables is actually good for us. The problem is that so many of the processed foods available to us have a lot of fructose added to them, which is unhealthy when eaten in large quantities. For instance, high-fructose corn syrup, a corn-based sweetener, is used in so many of our food products, such as soda and cookies, and I urge you to rid your cabinets and refrigerator of it.
Simple glucose is another type of sugar that helps keep our bodies energized. But when we eat too many unhealthy carbohydrates, glucose levels spike, which can lead to diabetes.
Sucrose is table sugar, which is made up of half fructose and half glucose.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that although it can't be proven yet, fructose, its cousin high-fructose corn syrup, and glucose can all cause obesity. The study's authors observed participants' brains and found that consuming excess sugar can actually trigger our brains to overeat. Yikes!
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Sugar not only leads to weight gain- there is significant evidence suggesting the connection between diabetes and cognitive decline.
Between sugar hijacking our brain's reward pathways, leading to diabetes, contributing to weight gain and energy crashes, diets high in excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup also:
- •May lead to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's, cognitive decline, and dementia due to sugar's key role in blood glucose and insulin resistance. High blood glucose levels can actually cause the brain to shrink.
- •Contribute to mental illness such as depression and anxiety by over-activating our serotonin pathways.
- •Impair memory and may lead to learning disabilities. Excessive fructose damages synaptic activity in the brain, essentially aging brain cells used for normal communication.
Because of the overwhelming evidence that sugar is bad for us, I encourage everyone on Beyond Diet to cut it out of your diet. Your main source of sugar should be from natural sugar found in fruits, vegetables, and raw, unfiltered honey. If you are looking for some added sweetness, use pure stevia, a natural herb that is actually much sweeter than sugar (so use it in small amounts!).
If you are unsure whether or not your sugar is coming from a healthy source, find my Complete Guide to Sweeteners and Weight Loss, here.