This is your brain on sugar

So I know I mentioned in my last post how I had this weird sort of indescribable moment of total peace, calm and clarity last weekend — really, a feeling I can't put into words, don't remember ever having before and want to experience again — and because I feel like I'm already starting to see the positive effects on my family of eating more cleanly in the New Year (no one has been sick yet in 2013, knock wood!), one of my first reactions was, I wonder if it's because I cut out so much sugar?

I know it could be a few different things. But my mind always goes to food. So I started investigating, and this is what I've come up with.

  1. Consuming food or beverages that contain fructosea sugar that saturates the American diet and can be found in both table sugar AND high-fructose corn syrup — turns off the area in your brain that makes you feel full. So basically what that's saying is, if you consume a lot of foods with regular sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (think cookies, cakes, soda, pretty much anything that comes in a box), it's no wonder why you're always hungry and reaching for more. You're literally feeding your brain food that makes it want more food.
  2. Rats — which, let's face it, share many physiological processes with humans, hence the reason they're used in so many research studies — were found in one recent study to be affected in the areas of learning and remembering information after being fed a diet high in fructose. Remember, fructose can be found in everything from Coke to applesauce and grape juice. I know: Applesauce and grape juice? Usually considered pretty innocuous, I'd say.
  3. This I did not know: People with diabetes, which can be caused by eating too much sugar for too long a period of time, are more likely to suffer from depression, dementia and Alzheimer's. I'm not a diabetic, and I hope I never am, but I know and have known people who are. It can be lethal...but even if it "only" causes you to experience dementia in old age, that's reason enough to try to avoid contracting the disease. I've never known anyone with dementia or Alzheimer's and I hope I never do. Actors on the silver screen depicting those who suffer from dementia make me fear what it would be like to step into a family member's room and not have them recognize you.
  4. Excess glucose in the form of refined sugar, when consumed, can also cause the following:
  • Feeling slow or sluggish, due to less rapid neural (brain) communication
  • Increased inflammatory stress on the brain (we know how I feel about inflammation)
  • Interrupted "synaptic communication" and misfiring neurons, causing "erroneous messages that take time and energy to sort out"
  • Increased alpha, delta and theta brain waves, which actually make you think LESS clearly

Too much of the sweet stuff can even cause your body to create excess stress hormones, for up to five hours after you've consumed whatever it is you decided to indulge in that day. So if you keep it coming, you're literally feeding your stress. You're not even giving yourself a chance to calm down and relax.

Sure, I believe in God and angels, spirits and divine intervention, and my inexplicable moment of peace, or awareness, or whatever you want to call it could certainly be a gift from a higher power, showing me all that my brain is capable of. But...even if it was...isn't it possible that I also feel this way because it's reinforcing the deep desire I have to knock sugar out of my diet completely? The teacher appears when the student is ready?

I know for some of you that just took things WAY too far out into woo-woo-land. But back to earth here for a minute. All of the above is science related, not spiritual. We know sugar is not good for us. Ain't nothin' new there. So I guess there's only one way to find out if my clear head was a result of a whole lotta clean eating, before this week rolled around and I slipped and had a peppermint mocha, my husband bought ice cream and I officially removed all mini chocolate chips from our kitchen (and by "removed" I mean "poured pile after pile into my hand and down my throat, it was really a sight to see").

*Fingers crossed* that Terri Cole and Dr Frank Lipman sponsor me to test their 21-day cleanse, because I could really use some hard-core help and accountability to slowly eliminate sugar from my diet. Does that mean no honey? Maple syrup? Fruit juice? I don't use agave or table sugar in anything I cook for myself, but when I don't have time to go to the bakery we have refined-flour rye bread for toast and on the days the nanny is here I make myself a fake mocha to get through my long day at work. I don't know how cold-turkey I'd really have to go to test out this hypothesis. But I can tell you this much: Either this is really just some harebrained scheme my chocolate chip-laced mind has concocted because I really know how badly I want to get off the stuff and I'll be disappointed to find my mind does NOT work like a neurosurgeon's when my experiment is over (21 days? or 40? isn't that the magic number? And what if it's not just sugar but also more vegetables, less meat, more whole grains, do people who really eat perfectly have amazing brain function???), or my mind is about to be blown.

Let's hope for the latter. I'd really like to be so smart that I'm borderline crazy. We all know I'm real good at crazy.


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