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Sugar on the Mind

How junk food influences more than your waist line.


Sugar has been a hot topic in the past five years, mainly as a result of an outpouring of medical research regarding how sugar influences the brain. According to these studies, sugar is addictive, it is one of the primary causes of type-2 diabetes, and it is consumed in way too high of quantities across the United States. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of sugar addiction. Even in Rochester Hills you can see that junk foods like ice cream and cookies are a constant favorite, and there are few who will prefer a plate of organic vegetables next to a freshly baked tray of sweets.


Avoiding sugar is one of the more complicated jobs you’ll be tasked with when you are in a medical weight loss program, but it is for the best—and there is plenty of evidence to that point.


The Proof


Researchers from the University of Montreal subjected laboratory mice to a low-fat diet for a period of about six weeks, and subjected another group of mice to a diet rich in fats for the same length of time. The mice on the high fat diet experienced an 11 percent increase in total body weight, but their waist lines weren’t the only thing changed.


The mice that followed the high-fat diet were more anxious based on the results of brain imaging studies. This was associated with higher levels of the CREB molecule, a chemical involved in dopamine production which staves off depression and promotes feelings of pleasure associated with rewards.


While that evidence is well and good, it is, after all, about rats—right? Researchers at Yale University thought they’d explore the issue a bit deeper, this time using human subjects. They gave milkshakes to people while taking brain images in an MRI machine. They found stimulated brain activity similar to signs of addiction when a 13 year old subject was given just a small taste of a milkshake.


Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a lab experiment, having subjects complete a computer game that would give them a milkshake reward for completing certain tasks. The milkshake was plenty of an incentive, as they found that people were willing to work much harder at completing the computer assignment when there was a sugary reward waiting for them. This too, the researchers found, indicates a link to addiction.


The problem with sugar being an addictive substance is that it is a major contributor to weight gain, and increases your risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. As you work towards achieving your weight loss goal in Rochester Hills, try to think about the health benefits of cutting out sugar. Focusing on how sugar interrupts healthy brain functioning and triggers addiction may be enough to help you cut down on eating all those sweets.