Did you know that there is a link between sugar and mental health problems? That’s right, the sugar you eat can contribute to anxiety, depression, stress, and other issues. If you suspect you’re eating too much sugar, the truth is that you probably are—like 75% of the other Americans and Westerners that over-consume sugar. Understanding how sugar affects your mental health can help you realize the importance of cutting back drastically on your sugar intake!
The Highs and Lows of Sugar
Sugar can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels, thanks to the fact that your body turns sugar into glucose very quickly. A dose of sugar can lead to drastic spikes in your blood sugar, which in turn can cause your body to scramble to produce enough insulin to lower your blood sugar back to “healthy” levels. This high and low can leave you feeling jittery, irritable, nervous, drained, and even a bit foggy in your brain. The ups and downs caused by high blood sugar can be terrible for your mental health, and can feel a lot like the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Better avoid the roller coaster by avoiding sugar!
Greater Depression Risk
Studies have discovered a link between sugar and depression—specifically, high consumption of sugar leads to an increased risk of developing clinical depression. Many of us use sweet foods as a means of self-medicating or coping with stress after a tough day, but that’s actually the worst thing you can do for your health! Sugar causes an imbalance of brain chemicals that play a role in your happiness, and chronically low levels of these chemicals can contribute to higher depression risk. Life can be hard enough without sugary foods increasing your risk of feeling blue!
Anxiety to the Moon
Sugar may not cause anxiety, but studies have indicated that it can exacerbate or increase it. Animal studies have found that rats that consumed more sugar tended to be more anxious. When you’re dealing with a lot of stress, anxiety is a common response to the high-stress situations. Thanks to the fact that sugar reduces your body’s ability to cope with stress effectively, so that stress produces a lot more anxiety than it would if you weren’t eating sugar. All those above-mentioned symptoms of blood sugar highs and lows will just compound your anxiety!
Less Brain Power
That’s right, more sugar is worse for your brain! A UCLA study found that chronically high-sugar diets led to reduced brain power, specifically in the areas of learning and memory. The sugar can actually damage genes in your brain, which could hamper your ability to absorb and retain new information. Worse, the damage could be long-term, and could increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Though this study was only done with fructose and was done on rats, but the danger is very real for humans, too. If you find yourself losing intellectual capacity, it may be the direct result of sugar!
Did you know that sugar withdrawal can cause panic attack-like symptoms in your body? People who quit sugar often feel anxiety, fatigue, confusion, and irritability, all of which are symptoms of withdrawal from the sugar your body is craving. The symptoms of withdrawal can contribute to panic attacks, and anxiety disorders can heighten the feelings even further. If you’re going to quit sugar, it’s recommended that you do it in small doses at a time. That way, you can slowly wean yourself off the bad stuff without triggering those panic attacks.