Eating too much sugar and simple carbohydrates are known to be bad for your health. A diet loaded with sugar, bread, white rice and pasta have been shown to lead to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Can eating too many simple carbohydrates also affect your brain function and lead to memory loss?
In a study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers in Australia studied the effect of sugar on the health of the human brain. In the study, 266 non-diabetic men and women in their early 60s with normal cognitive function were studied. Blood sugar levels were in the normal range: below 110 mg/dL. All appeared to be healthy, with no signs of obvious memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease.
The study participants were given brain scans at the start of the study, then again four years later. After controlling for factors like age, smoking, drinking and lifestyle, the researchers found that those with the highest blood sugar levels had shrinkage in two areas of the brain critical for memory processing – the hippocampus and the amygdala. Brain shrinkage in these regions is also commonly seen in those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
When a large amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates are consumed, insulin levels become chronically elevated, which leads to weight gain. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to sugar (hyperglycemia) leads to increased levels of inflammation throughout the body including the brain. Inflammation can directly lead to damage of cellular function.
This study serves as a warning: if your blood sugar is high, you risk losing brain function. The hippocampus and amygdala are necessary for memory and emotion. As people age, they often experience cognitive decline, but consuming large amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates makes things worse. So stay away from both sugar and simple carbs; avoiding both is good for both the heart and the brain.