MESP logo-RGB300pxb

... Because it's All in Your Mind!


Memory Spring Monthly

Reduce Intake of Refined Sugar to Boost Your Memory!

Sugar - By Gunilla G

Refined sugar! We've all heard that it's bad for us and that we should reduce our intake of it. But, did you know that there’s an increasing amount of data revealing that diets high in refined sugar have an adverse effect on our memory and brain health? It does!

In the U.S. we are high consumers of refined sugar. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes 156 pounds of refined sugar per year. The Centers for Disease Control puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 calories—nearly one quarter of a typical 2000 calorie a day diet. You might not believe it, but refined sugar is found in almost everything that we consume.

Refined Sugars Versus Natural Sugars 
Refined sugar is extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets. It is typically found in our kitchens as table sugar--a simple compound known as sucrose, which is made of two simpler components, glucose and fructose, that are bound together. Refined sugar is typically used in cakes and cookies, coffee, cereal and even fruit. Food manufacturers also add a more complex sugar called high-fructose corn syrup, to foods and beverages, including crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Low-fat foods are often the worst offenders, as manufacturers use extra sugar to add flavor.
Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose, and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. The main difference between natural and processed sugars is how each one delivers glucose and fructose. For example, fruits are not just fructose in different shapes. They also contain an array of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Having this full package allows to your body to slow down the absorption of fructose. 
The brain needs blood sugar, in the form of the simple sugar glucose, constantly to function correctly. Blood sugar is considered the gasoline for our brain. Blood sugar is derived from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, and other healthy foods. When we try to feed our brain on refined sugars it wreaks havoc on our brain and body.
What are some of the impacts of diets high in refined sugar? 
  • Difficulty forming new memories Research shows that diets high in refined sugar reduces the production of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor).  BDNF is required for forming new memories and learning.
  • Contributes to depression and dementia Research has also linked low BDNF levels to depression and dementia. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, it's possible that low BDNF may turn out to be the smoking gun in these and other diseases, like Alzheimer's, that tend to appear in clusters in epidemiological studies.
  • Predisposes to diabetes Diets high in refined sugar also begin contributing to insulin resistance which leads to Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Diabetes has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other memory issues.
  • Supports overeating Research has shown that chronic consumption of refined sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating. As a matter of fact, sugar-laden foods make us want to eat even more. As a result we continue overeating. Continued over-eating contributes to obesity, poor circulation, and poor brain performance.
  • Reduces brain function  A UCLA study showed how a steady diet high in fructose can damage your memory and learning. The study was published in the Journal of Physiology, showed the effects of high-fructose syrup impacted the brain. They fed rats a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks, then tested their ability to remember their way out of a maze. The rats fed fructose syrup showed more significant cognitive impairment struggling to find their way out of the maze. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier.
The Solution
According to the American Heart Association, men should eat no more than 37.5 grams, which is nine teaspoons, of sugar a day, and women should eat no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day. But the World Health Organization now says even those allowances are too high, suggesting both men and women should eat 25 grams or fewer each day. Here are a few tips from to help you reduce refined sugar in your diet:
  • Read food labels.  You might not realize it, but almost all packaged food contains sugar. Look for products with no sugar or low sugar. Remember, four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon.
  • Recognize sugar’s aliases. Sugar has other names including high-fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose and any word ending in -ose, brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup. If you start seeing a number of these names on a food package, beware.
  • Buy products that are unsweetened or have no added sugar. While you might say at first that unsweetened foods taste like cardboard, as you wean yourself off of refined sugar, you’ll probably find that your taste buds better pick up the natural sweetness of foods. You can find unsweetened versions of these common foods in most grocery stories: almond and soy milk, peanut butter (look for those made with only nuts and salt), applesauce, oatmeal, and canned fruit (they should be packed in juice—not syrup). 
  • Try unsweetened vanilla almond milk as a substitute for regular milk. You’ll reduce your consumption of 15 to 22 grams of sugar per serving and find that it tastes pretty good.  
  • Add healthy proteins, fats, and fiber. Healthy protein, fats, and fiber slow down the release of blood sugar in your body and keep you full longer. Add almonds or eggs to your oatmeal. Add healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive or coconut oils to your foods. 
  • Avoid fake sugars.  Fake sugars mess with your taste for sweet. Doctors surmise that your body expects calories and nutrition for sweets, and artificial sweeteners don’t provide that. That’s why, according to Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, fake sugars are associated with weight gain, not weight loss.
  • Add flavor.  Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal or coffee, add vanilla, cocoa powder, and/or cinnamon. For other foods, add various spices, lemon or lime zest to your dishes to flavor them up. As a matter of fact, the Journal of Medicinal Food, has revealed that cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite.
  • Take a break with a dessert.  It’s virtually impossible to go “cold turkey” on refined sugar, so it makes sense to occasionally have a dessert after a healthy dinner or on a special occasion. Those little breaks go a long way towards keeping you on the right path.
  • Be patient and persistent. It might appear difficult at first. Remember, it takes three weeks to create a habit. In addition, your body will probably go through withdrawals as you reduce your sugar usage. But as your body begins to get used to natural sugars, you will begin to feel better and your taste buds will greater appreciate natural sugars. Remember the old saying How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Take action on reducing your sugar today. You’ll feel better, be healthier, and get a boost in your brain performance. For more information on memory improvement and brain health This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at (530) 297-6464.