By Hannah Maine —
Research on the way sugar affects the human body has been increasing recently as we learn there is much more to sugar’s effects than what we originally thought.
For much of the time, calories were the only factor to focus on when considering how we gain weight. However, we’ve learned that sugar can be one of the most guilty culprits. In general, we consume much more sugar than is recommended, especially additive sugars that are not natural. When we consume a lot of sugar, it raises our blood sugar, triggering our body to produce more insulin to carry the sugar out of the blood. The body then stores this excess sugar as fat to be used later. This is a dangerous practice to start at a young age.
While teens typically have heightened metabolisms and may not see the weigh effects of sugar, there are many more negative effects large amounts of sugar have on the teen body and mind.
Refined sugar not only affects the weight of adolescents but also has a significant negative effect on the cognitive function and development of children and teens. During this critical time of brain development for adolescents, consuming excessive amounts of sugar damages the hippocampus, which leads to poor memory processing and slower learning.
Adolescent brains are still developing their reward system, therefore teens are especially drawn to immediate gratification rewards like eating sugary foods which cause neurotransmitters to overproduce dopamine. Adolescent reward systems are highly effected and may be permanently damaged from this over activation.
Studies have connected consuming sugar and sugar additives to a higher risk of depression, addiction, and anxiety. Sugar affects the body and mind like a drug by flooding the brain with dopamine. The excess levels of dopamine change the way the brain functions and its chemistry over time, causing mental health issues.
Sugar gives us a quick spike in energy, but it doesn’t last long. When our energy spikes up quickly from high amounts of sugar, it crashes down almost as fast. This leaves us feeling more tired than before. Additionally, this spike in energy can contribute to hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating, especially in teens.
Excessive amounts of sugar have an array of negative effects on our body and mind. Some additional issues caused by sugar include acne, food allergies, increase cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and reduced defense against bacterial infections.
It’s not reasonable to avoid sugar altogether. However, it’s a good idea to limit our sugar intake and focus on eating natural sugars that occur in healthy foods like fruits.