It has long been known that poor diet quality is associated with poorer mental health outcomes. It is only now, however, that science is allowing us to understand the full weight of the impact of sugar on our physical and mental health, and just what that means for us as a society…

·         Sugar has the same effect as stress on our mental health, as it suppresses hormone BDNF, which is significantly lower in people suffering from depression and schizophrenia.

·         BDNF acts as an antidepressant and neuron growth stimulator, which is why sufferers of schizophrenia and depression suffer brain shrinkage over prolonged periods of time. Yes, depression can cause actual brain damage!

·         Sugar leads to chronic inflammation, which is related to a huge number of disorders including asthma, arthritis, depression, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and many others.

·         Inflammation is gradually proving to be an underlying cause of Alzheimers and dementia.

·         Diabetes and obesity, both of which can be caused by high sugar intake, make us more vulnerable to mental illness .

·         Sugar is addictive, causing a release of reward hormone dopamine. In studies, it has shown to “light up” the same regions of the brain as cocaine.

·         Rats will choose sugar over cocaine, and when the sugar is taken away, they go through dopamine imbalance and withdrawal just like a drug addict.

·         Sugar causes stupidity – rats will forget their way out of a maze as a direct result of a sugary diet

o   The decline in IQ caused by high fructose intake can be counteracted by a similarly high increase in omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

·         However, no matter how much omega-3 fatty acids are ingested, eating sugar still makes us eat more calories overall. This means sugar is potentially the most potent cause of obesity.

·         A high fructose diet hampers the progress of recovery from traumatic brain injury

Should I give up sugar?

It is recommended by the World Health Organisation that we should consume no more than 10% of our daily calories as sugar, though their ideal is at 5%. Given today’s average consumption rates of sugar, there’s a very high likelihood that you need to cut down on the sweet stuff.

How can I reduce my sugar intake?

The best ways to cut down on sugar include these simple steps:

·         Replace fruit juice with smoothies.

·         Replace dried fruit with fresh fruit.

·         Eat dark chocolate instead of milk or white, and enjoy the many other health benefits.

·         Eat healthy fats alongside the sugar you do eat, such as peanut butter with apple slices. This makes you feel fuller for longer and causes the sugar to be released slowly into your bloodstream, which means you don’t get an insulin spike and crash that contributes to diabetes, cravings and mood swings.

·         Make your own dips, sauces and salad dressings.

·         Try cooking carrots in savoury meals instead of adding a pinch of sugar.

·         Check out the I Quit Sugar website for recipes and more information.

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