How Your Afternoon Sugar-Fix Is Affecting Your Mind & Body

Most of us are prone to a 3 pm slump, where we reach for a sweet treat to keep us going through the afternoon. Whether consciously or not, thanks to our modern lifestyle, we consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis, yet few of us really know what it’s doing to our body and mind.

Sugar as a substance is often misunderstood; seen as a poison by some, but a pleasure by others. But as with most things, sugar can be crucial to a happy and healthy life, if eaten in moderation, and a real danger when over-consumed.

Here at Cel, we want to look at the impact sugar has on our mind and body, the types of sugar we need, and what sugar habits we should avoid.  

The Different Types of Sugar

There is a huge range of sugar varieties out there (not to mention sugar substitutes), but for the purpose of this article, we are going to look at the main two that you will regularly encounter: Glucose and Fructose.

Many people see sugar as a “bad” food that only occurs in cookies, donuts or soda, but in actual fact, sugar is in almost everything we consume. Here are the two main types you should be aware of…

Glucose:

To put it simply, Glucose is the sugar your body likes. It’s used as a primary source of energy by your cells and is the main component of many carbohydrates. It’s necessary for everyday life and activities and keeping us alert, full and satisfied.

When glucose is consumed, the body stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Your brain then notices this insulin, understands that it’s metabolizing food, and tells you that you’re less hungry. Without enough carbohydrate (glucose), we can feel tired, drained and energy-less.

Fructose:

Fructose is the other main sugar type we consume; however, it’s considered the worse of the two, at least when consumed in excess. Fructose is also a simple sugar, but it needs to be converted into glucose by the liver in order to be used as energy. It also contains around 3 times the number of calories than glucose.

Fructose negatively changes the way your brain recognizes your hunger – making you resist Leptin (the protein vital for regulating energy expenditure). As a result, you can keep eating without recognizing you are full, which can lead to obesity.

But fructose isn’t all bad! Unlike glucose, fructose causes a low rise in blood sugar levels and therefore is seen as “safer” for those with Diabetes and similar conditions. It’s also used by athletes as it can actually replenish your glycogen supplies faster than glucose.

Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Sugar…

1. You Get An Energy Spike… Then A Crash

Eating a lot of refined carbs, like white bread and pasta, can quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream. This will give you an energy boost temporarily, but this short-term spike will leave you more sluggish later on. This crash can cause serious lethargy, an inability to concentrate and leave you craving more sugar. Instead, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals to help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and choose wholegrain or brown carbs rather than the white varieties.

2. You Can Get Hooked

Eating sugar causes a release of dopamine, the chemical that makes us like something and want more of it. As you release more and more of this neurotransmitter, it overstimulates the brain and causes receptors to decrease. This results in you needing a bigger hit of dopamine to get the same rush – hooking you into eating more and more sugar.

3. Your Cells Pay A Price

Fructose consumption accelerates the usual oxidation process in your cells, resulting in tissues becoming damaged. This can lead to health implications such as liver and kidney disease, and even cataracts. Eating excess sugar is therefore not only harmful to your waistline (and the health implications associated), but for internal health, too.

4. You Can Overeat & Gain Weight

Although sugar is essential for energy release, the liver is only able to metabolize so much. Any Fructose left over is converted into fat in the liver, raising your risk of obesity. Eating too much sugar can also make you want to eat more, as your body is trying to constantly balance and re-surge its blood sugar levels.

5. Your Skin Ages Faster

Eating too much sugar can hinder the repair of collagen in your skin, which is essential for looking smooth and wrinkle-free. Sugary treats can result in reduced elasticity and premature aging. So, indulge your sweet tooth with fruit instead!

6. Your Brain Can Suffer

Fructose, when eaten regularly, can excite the brain’s reward center by firing off chemicals and neurotransmitters for pleasure and happiness. But over time, this can affect how well our memories are stored and how quickly we can pick up new skills. To stay in peak mental shape, stick to savory snacks.

Final Thoughts

As with most things, sugar in moderation can be great. The problems occur when your daily intake exceeds what your body needs, and can deal with. These days, sugar can be hidden in many foods and drinks without us even realizing, especially when we rely so much on packed, processed and convenience foods. So, pay attention to what you’re putting in your body, and it can have a serious impact on how you look on the outside!

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Rachel Cleverley

Part writer, part skin-care enthusiast, I can usually be found blogging away with the latest facemask or eye cream on! With specific interest in how our health and fitness can affect our beauty routine, and how science can boost regular, drugstore products.