How sugar affects the brain

Is your mouth watering? Are you craving dessert? Why? What happens in the brain that makes sugary food so hard to resist?

Picture warm, gooey cookies, crunchy candies , velvet vakes , waffle cones oiled high with ice scream.

Is your mouth watering? Are you craving dessert? Why? What happens in the brain that makes sugary food so hard to resist?

Sugar is a general term used to describe a class of molecules called carbohydrates, and it’s found in a wide variety of food and drinks.Just check the labels on sweet producs you buy.

Glucose, fuctose, sucrose, maltose , lactose , dextrose and strach are all forms of sugar. So are high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice , raw sugar , and honey. And sugar isn’t just in candies and desserts, its also added to tomato sauceyogurt, dried fruit, flavored waters, or granola bars.Since sugar is everywhere , its important to understand how it affects the brain.


What happend when sugar its your tongue and does eating a little bit of sugar make you crave more?

You take a bite of cereal.The sugar it contains activate the sweet-taste receptors, part of the taste buds on the tongue.

These receptors send signals up to the brain stem , and forom there it forts off into many areas of the forebrain, on of which is the cerebral cortex.Different sections of the cerebral cortex process different tastes: bitter , salty , umami nad in our case sweet.

From here , the signal activates the brains reward system.This reward system is a serios of electrical and chemical pathways across several different regions of the brain.Its a complicated network but it helps answer a singel queston: Should i do that again?That warm , fuzzy feeling you get when you taste Grandmas chocolate cake?Thats your reward system saying MMMM, yes!

And its not just activated by food.

Socializing ,sexual behavior and drugs are just a few examples of things and experiences that aslo activate the reward system.

But overactivating this reward system kicksarts a serious of unforuante events : loss of control , craving and icreased toreance of sugarlets. Lets get back to our bite of cereal ,it travels down into your stomach and eventually into your gut.And guess what ?

There are sugar receptores here , too.Thery are not taste buds , but they send signals telling your brain that your full or that your body should produce more insulin to deal with the extra sugar you’re eating.

The major currency of our reward system is dopamine, an important chemical or neurotransmitter.

There are many dopamine receptors in the forebrain , but there not evenly distributed..Certain areas contain dense clusters of receptors , and these dopamine hot spots are a part of our reward system.

Drugs like alcohol,nicote, or heroine sends fopamine into overdrive, leading some people to constantly seek that high, in other words , to be addicted.

Sugar also causes dopamine to be released, throgh not as violently as drugs.And sugar is rare among dopamine-inducing foods.Broccoli for example has no effect which propably explain why its so hard to get kids to eat their veggetables.

Speaking of healthy foods, lets say you’re hungry and decide to eat a balacnced meal.You do and dopamine lelevs spike in the reward system hot spots but if you eat that same dish many days in a row , dopamine levels will spike less and ales eventually leveling out.That’s becouse when it comes to food , the brain evolved to pay special atention to new or different tastes. Why ? Twho reasons: 

First to detect food that’s gone bad and second becouse the more variety we have in our diet, the more likely we are to get all the nutrients we need.

To keep that variety up , we need to be able to recognice a new food , and more importantly we need to want to keep eating new foods.And that’s why the dopamine levels off when a food becomes boring.Now ,back to that meal.What happens if in place of healthy , balanced dish, you eat sugar-rich food insted ?If you rarely eat sugar or don’t eat much at a time , the effect is similar to that of the balanced meal.But if you eat too much , the dopamine response does not level out.In other words eating lots of sugar will continue to fell rewarding.In this way ,sugar behaves a little bit like a drug.It’s one reason people seem to be hooked on sugary foods.So ,think back to all those different kinds of sugar.Each one is unique but every time any sugar is consumed it kickstars a domino effect in the brain that sparks a rewarding feeling.Too much , too often and things can go into overdrive.So ,yes ,overconsumption of sugar can have addictive effects on the brain , but a wedge of cake once in a while wont hurt you.







Written by Awat Dhahir

Founder and CEO at VIRAL Strange / Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live. I’d rather steal your dessert than your boyfriend. Stay humble. Be kind. Work hard. The secret ingredient is always cheese.

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