Does sugar damage the brain? What the research says
We all know sugar promotes obesity. However, does it hamper our neural health? Research indicates, possibly yes...
There are several papers online indicating the ill-effects of sugar on brain function.
Firstly, sugar has been linked to decreased satiety (fulfilment after a meal) and hyperphagia (an excessive desire for food), thus disrupting homeostatic neural pathways. This effect has also shown to depend on the kind of sugar (fructose decreased satiety while glucose increased it; .
Additionally, sugar has shown to lower dopamine concentration (a marker for addiction - i.e, you need more sugar to achieve the same effect - similar findings have been found for alcohol). It further is suggested to increase cravings, decrease neuroplasticity (i.e, brain changes). Moreover, it activates reward, somatosensory and gustatory pathways more than does fat.
Linked is a review worth reading - Recent Studies of the Effects of Sugars on Brain Systems Involved in Energy Balance and Reward: Relevance to Low Calorie Sweeteners
Refined sugar has also been linked to reduce Brain-Derived-Neurotrophic-Factor (BDNF - a hallmark of neurogenesis and neuroprotective effects), CREB (cAMP responsive element binding protein - contributes to memory), and growth-associated protein 43 mRNA - again involved in neurite growth, neurotransmitter release, learning and memory.
In all, the data on sugar’s overall effect on brain function is still being contested, and conclusions suggest that further evidence is needed. Nevertheless, linked above and in the footnotes are papers that may perhaps be relevant to the addictive and potentially neurodegenerative effects of sugar.