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How Sugar Affects A Child’s Brain

child with candy bar

It is no secret that sugar can have devastating effects on cardiac health and the waistline. Scientific studies show that high levels of sugar have negative effects on a child’s brain, from psychological wellbeing to cognitive function.

A research study conducted at the University of Southern California found a disturbing connection between memory and sugary drinks. These refined drinks contain high levels of carbohydrates which if ingested in large quantities can cause metabolic disturbances. The study also found that increased sugar intake interferes with the ability of the brain to function normally. Trouble remembering minor details about one’s environment is common when sugar is consumed in large quantities before adulthood.

Researchers at UCLA found that increased sugar intake slows down the brain. They found that the rats which consumed too much fructose had damaged brain synaptic activity. Increased sugar levels tend to increase resistance to insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is vital for brain functioning through blood sugar control.

Extreme levels of sugar in children can cause interference with neurotransmitters responsible for keeping moods stable. This often leads to depression and anxiety in children. Moreover, high sugar levels can cause inflammation of cells in an area of the brain known as hippocampus. This area plays a critical role in organizing and storing memories as well as connecting senses and emotions to those memories.

While this is a topic that’s still controversial, sugar has an addictive effect on children and adults alike. Like drugs, sugar floods the brain with dopamine, a feel good chemical, thus interfering with normal functioning of the brain. A study conducted at Yale University found that simple sight of a milkshake activated the same reward centers of the brain as cocaine does with addicts. In fact, another study conducted in 2007 found that study subjects (rats) preferred sugar water to cocaine.

While still on the subject of sugar levels, how much is too much? Generally, an average adult consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. In the case of children, quantities of added sugars above 4 tablespoons are unhealthy.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.

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