23 Apr

Sugar-Free Diet for a Healthy Brain

image - sugar cubes in a bowl - fortydayschallenge.com

Going on a sugar free diet for a period of 40 days was the best thing I could have done. I made this drastic decision when I read about the damage sugar can do to the brain in the book Rewire Your Brain – Think Your Way to a Better Life – Dr John B. Arden in which he says:

The brain uses glucose as fuel, but when it gets too much of it at one time, this can create a number of problems.

Dr Arden says that the pancreas, the liver, the thyroid, the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, and the brain – are enlisted in controlling the amount of glucose in the blood. He mentions that a diet high in sugar contributes to accelerated ageing. He goes into many technical details of how the excess sugar consumption can affect the brain. The most important thing for us is to understand the consequences of too much sugar in the diet.

Harmful Effects of Sugar on the Body and Brain

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Here are the most common harmful effects caused by taking too much sugar:

  • High sugar consumption is associated with depression.
  • Leads to greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.
  • Sugars are refined carbohydrates that can increase free radical inflammatory stress on the brain. A free radical is a molecule with a rogue electron that can rupture cell structure.
  • When people were given the amount of sugar in two soft drinks (75 grams of glucose), the free radical products of damaged fatty acids, called isoprostanes, rose by 34 percent in just 90 minutes after consumption.
  • Mild isoprostane elevation has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Much more shocking is the effect on children and their IQ. As Dr Arden writes:

More than twenty-five years ago, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found a 25 percent difference between the IQ scores of children with high versus low consumption of refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour) (Schauss, 1984). The differences in glucose result in significant costs to cognition and to the brain itself. Research at Britain’s Swansea University found that dips in blood sugar are correlated with poor memory, poor attention, and aggressive behaviour.

Research in Finland assessed the effects of sugar on children between 10-11 years old and found that withdrawal, anxiety, depression, delinquency, and aggression were twice as frequent in those who had 30 percent more sucrose in the form of soft drinks, sugary snacks, and ice cream.

The Bottom Line: High sugar intake is bad for your brain and results in significant impairment of your ability to think clearly, maintain even moods, and behave effectively in a social situation. Keeping you blood sugar balanced is of paramount importance for a healthy brain.

Vegan and Sugar-Free Diet for 40 Days
It is not enough to gain information but what is important is take action after learning a new fact. My decision to go vegan for Lent and also sugar free (especially in my coffee and tea) has had a great effect in 40 days. I have continued to go sugar free, though I tried having a spoon in my coffee to see if I really miss it.

Next Step – Develop Healthy Habits:

Exercise and Sleep
The next most important thing after a healthy diet is exercise and sleep. I will be making a few changes in my life to include proper exercise and sleep in the next 11 days of my forty day challenge. You might ask why:

Exercise Helps to Grow New Brain Cells: is the best way to jump start neuroplasticity and neurogenesis and building brain resources. It also raises the stress threshold of neurons. There are many other benefits which we will be exploring.

Sleep: Sleep is critical for the maintenance of the brain. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, even after just one week. It has been shown to compromise attention, new learning and memory.

A Thought for This Week:
… the brain adapts or expands in response to repeated patterns of activity, so that in a real sense the brain we develop reflects the life we lead. — H. H. The Dalai Lama

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