Is Your Mental Health Affected by High-Sugar Diets

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Do you rely on a high sugar diet to relieve stress? It turns out your favorite comfort foods might be doing the exact opposite.

RELATED: 9 Foods for Brain Fog | Foods That Improve Memory and Concentration

Health Effects of High Sugar Diet and What You Can Do Starting Today


Is Sugar Important For Brain Function?

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Sugar, sometimes called glucose, is vital for brain function.

Sugar is food for the brain, one that needs constant refueling. In fact, our brain uses up half our glucose stores to power its functions. Changes in glucose levels could affect our abilities to think, learn, and recall memories.

While a healthy diet includes sugar, it's essential to control how much of it we have.

Is a High Sugar Diet Bad For My Mood?

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To those that rely on sugary snacks and beverages to brighten their mood, vegetables and a cup of joe might do you more good. Too much sugar could sour and dampen your mood.

Researchers conducted a study on patients with type 2 diabetes. The study showed that patients with acute hyperglycemia (high sugar levels) experienced:

  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • lethargy (less energy)

Chowing on your favorite sweets may make you feel good now, but a study points out that this is short-lived. And its after-effects may make you feel worse-off.

An animal study shows that sugar withdrawal could cause depression or anxiety once sugar is no longer available.


Feeling grumpy about having to cut back on your cookies and cakes? It could be because of the sugar you ate and the sugar you did not, but more on sugar addiction later.

Can a High Sugar Diet Cause Depression?

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Your favorite fizzy drinks won't seem so sweet after this.

A study with over 4,000 participants found that those that drank over half a liter of soda a day were 60% more likely to experience:

  • depression
  • stress and distress
  • thoughts of suicide
  • mental health condition

This was compared to people that did not drink soda.

Furthermore, another study found that even diet drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners may still be associated with a higher risk of depression. Important to note that studies on the effects of artificial sweeteners on mental health are inconsistent and inconclusive.

On a positive note, downing over four cups of coffee a day (unsweetened, of course) could lower your risk of depression by 20%.

If you like to cap your meals with a fizzy drink, opt for a glass of club soda. If it's the sweetness you're after, a cup of fresh fruit juice is as satisfying and much more healthful.

What Are the Effects of a High Sugar Diet on Brain Power?

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Glucose may be food for the brain, but if you're reaching for a sugary chocolate bar to power your brain, you may be doing more harm than good.

Diabetes is associated with poor cognitive function. One study tried to find out why.

The researchers stated that diabetes patients with hyperglycemia had impaired brain function, including:

  • slowed cognitive function
  • diminished working memory
  • lack of focus and inhibition
  • slower to information processing
  • impaired attention

Working on a presentation but lack a bit of fuel? Munch on dark chocolate (low sugar) or a pack of healthful nuts instead.

Can Sugar Cause Dementia?

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Older adults may especially want to stave off the sugar. The likelihood of developing dementia grows up with age. And adding sugar to the diet may not help with your chances.

A study found that high sugar levels may be a risk factor for dementia even among healthy adults.

RELATED: Is Dementia Hereditary? Is It Avoidable?

How Much Sugar Can I Have in My Diet?

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Your daily dose of sugar should share less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health Services drew up the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025. In it, they detail how much sugar adults may have based on their ideal calorie count:

  • less than 7% of calories for those that need 2,000 calories a day
  • less than 8% of calories for those that need 2,800 calories a day
  • 9% to 10% of calories for those that need 3,000 calories a day

The American Heart Association, on the other hand, recommends:

  • For men: less than 9 teaspoons, 36 grams, or 150 calories of added sugar per day
  • For women: less than 6 teaspoons, 25 grams, or 100 calories of added sugar per day

Sweetened beverages are loaded with sugar and might take up all of your sugar allowance for the day. Sip on a glass of unsweetened iced tea or a fresh cup of juice. They are healthful nutrient-dense alternatives and are just as thirst-quenching as a glass of soda.

How Do I Lessen the Sugar in My Diet?

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Make it a habit to read nutrition facts as you do your groceries. On it, you will see how many calories and sugar your food contains. When deciding which foods to buy, get the most nutrient-dense options with the least amount of sugar.

You will also spot the ingredient list on the packaging. Steer clear of these ingredients listed on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020:

  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • molasses
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • trehalose
  • turbinado sugar

Artificial sweeteners are available in the market and may help you satisfy your sweet cravings. But it is essential to note that there is still a debate about how healthy or safe these are.

Sugar may be addictive, so going cold turkey may not be an ideal route for someone who currently has a high sugar diet.

You may begin by lessening how much sugar you add to your diet. Instead of adding two teaspoons of sugar to your coffee, reduce it to just one. Learn to love fruits for dessert instead of cakes and pastries.

Since sweet drinks may have the most added sugar in the market, begin by lessening how much you buy soda, fruit juices, and energy drinks.

To better control how much sugar you consume a day, you can start making your own drinks. Fruits are naturally sweet and do not need any more sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Make each calorie count!

Can I Still Have Fruits?

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Yes, you can still have fruits.

Fruits do contain sugar (fructose) but in lesser quantities than foods sweetened with added sugar. Fruits over plenty of health benefits, containing essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

The glycemic index (GI) assesses how quickly your body breaks down the sugar in your food. The lower the GI, the better. Fortunately, most fruits have a low glycemic index (1-55) and may still be a healthful alternative for adults seeking to control their blood sugar.

But if you are diabetic, consult with your doctor for specific diet recommendations.

Check out this video for a quick breakdown of carbs:

The long-term effects of a high sugar diet include a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Other side effects of a high sugar diet may include inflammation, a larger waist, skin aging, and cavities.

Pay more attention to the ingredients of the foods you eat. Better yet, learn to make them yourself. Sugar is vital for normal body function, but added sugar may be harmful.

Whether it's for your mental health or a life decision to make healthier choices, everyone may gain from a low-sugar added diet. Snack smarter!

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DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to share information and should not be taken as medical advice.

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