This Is What Sugar Does To Your Brain

October 21st, 2019 by Debbie Martilotta

We know that too much sugar is bad for our waistlines and our heart health, but now there’s mounting evidence that high levels of sugar consumption can also have a negative effect on brain health — from cognitive function to psychological wellbeing.

While sugar is nothing to be too concerned about in small quantities, most of us are simply eating too much of it. The sweet stuff — which also goes by names like glucose, fructose, honey, and corn syrup — is found in 74 percent of packaged foods in our supermarkets. And while the Word Health Organization recommends that only 5 percent of daily caloric intake come from sugar, the typical American diet is comprised of 13 percent calories from sugar.

It’s easy to see how we can get hooked on sugar. However, we should be aware of the risks that a high-sugar diet poses for brain function and mental well-being.

Here’s what you need to know about how overconsumption of sugar could wreak havoc on your brain.

It creates a vicious cycle of intense cravings.

When a person consumes sugar, just like any food, it activates the tongue’s taste receptors. Then, signals are sent to the brain, lighting up reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones, like dopamine, to be released. Sugar “hijacks the brain’s reward pathway,” neuroscientist Jordan Gaines Lewis explained. And while stimulating the brain’s reward system with a piece of chocolate now and then is pleasurable and probably harmless, when the reward system is activated too much and too frequently, we start to run into problems.

“Over-activating this reward system kickstarts a series of unfortunate events — loss of control, craving, and increased tolerance to sugar,” neuroscientist Nicole Avena explained in a TED-Ed video.

In fact, research has shown that the brains of obese children actually light up differently when they taste sugar, reflecting an elevated “food reward” response. This suggests that their brain circuitry may predispose these children to a lifetime of intense sugar cravings.

It impairs memory and learning skills.

2012 study on rats, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that a diet high in fructose (that’s just another word for sugar) hinders learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain. The researchers found that rats who over-consumed fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired.

Heavy sugar intake caused the rats to develop a resistance to insulin — a hormone that controls blood sugar levels and also regulates the function of brain cells. Insulin strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, helping them to communicate better and thereby form stronger memories. So when insulin levels in the brain are lowered as the result of excess sugar consumption, cognition can be impaired.

“Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain,” Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”

It may cause or contribute to depression and anxiety.

If you’ve ever experienced a sugar crash, then you know that sudden peaks and drops in blood sugar levels can cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog, and fatigue. That’s because eating a sugar-laden donut or drinking a soda causes blood sugar levels to spike upon consumption and then plummet. When your blood sugar inevitably dips back down (hence the “crash”), you may find yourself feeling anxious, moody or depressed.

Sugar-rich and carb-laden foods can also mess with the neurotransmitters that help keep our moods stable. Consuming sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression.

Chronically high blood sugar levels have also been linked to inflammation in the brain. And as some research has suggested, neuroinflammation may be one possible cause of depression. Teenagers may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of sugar on mood.

Research has also found that people who eat a standard American diet that’s high in processed foods — which typically contain high amounts of saturated fat, sugar, and salt — are at an increased risk for developing depression, compared to those who eat a whole foods diet that’s lower in sugar.

It’s a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

A growing body of research suggests that a sugar-heavy diet could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 study found that insulin resistance and blood glucose levels — which are hallmarks of diabetes — are linked with a greater risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. The research “offers more evidence that the brain is a target organ for damage by high blood sugar,” endocrinologist Dr. Medha Munshi told the New York Times.


Strength training doesn’t just build muscle — it also helps fight depression, a new study found

May 14th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

Working out seems to have huge benefits for your mental health. Now in a review of studies newly published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers say that resistance training can also help treat depression.

This is a significant finding since it’s the first systematic analysis of top-quality studies that assess the effects of resistance training on depression. Plus, it shows that people get mental-health benefits from a type of exercise researchers say is crucial for maintaining muscle mass as you age.

  • Resistance training, also known as weight or strength training, can reduce symptoms of depression, according to a new meta-analysis of studies.
  • This form of exercise is about as effective at treating depression as aerobic exercise, according to the research.
  • That finding gives medical professionals a fresh way to fight depression, which is an extremely common form of mental illness, with major depression diagnosis rates rapidly on the rise, according to a new report.

The finding also comes at an important time.

Rates of major depression are rapidly rising in the US, according to a new report published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Since 2013, major depression diagnoses have increased by 33%, with even bigger increases for millennials and adolescents, according to the report. Of all conditions affecting Americans, depression has the second biggest impact on overall health, behind hypertension.

The power of getting stronger

Resistance training – often called strength training – includes weight lifting and body-weight exercises such as push-ups.

We already knew that resistance training makes people stronger, builds muscle, and can improve endurance and power. There’s also good evidence that strengthening exercises can reduce anxiety. Strengthening exercises helped reduce depression symptoms whether or not the study participants grew physically stronger, and it worked regardless of how healthy people were when they started the resistance training. Find the complete article in the link to the author below.

by Kevin Loria, Business Insider


Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency That Most People Ignore

December 18th, 2017 by Debbie Martilotta

Vitamin D deficiency can be responsible for many different symptoms. How many of these do you have? Do you take Vitamin D daily? I recommend 5000 IU’s per day for those living in northern latitudes, especially in the winter when sunlight is diminished. Read this article from HealthWay for more insights, Debbie Martilotta.

Today, more than 40 percent of Americans are deficient. The potential health consequences of this epidemic are serious, as vitamin D deficiency is linked to osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, and poor pregnancy outcomes.

D-ficient? Odds are you don’t know.
According to the Vitamin D Council, symptoms can be subtle—or even nonexistent—in the early stages. You might experience some tiredness and general aches and pains, but these symptoms are easy to dismiss because there are many things that cause them.

Aches and pains? You can easily chalk them up to the aftereffects of your last workout—or simply not being 20 anymore. Tiredness? That could be because you aren’t getting enough quality sleep.

Here are 15 signs that will help you know if you’re vitamin D deficient.

Muscle Weakness
You should be aware that muscle weakness can present as generalized body fatigue. If you’re experiencing a more general fatigue around your body, muscle weakness issues in specific areas may stay hidden and go unnoticed for months.

Bone Pain
In a study of 150 patients referred to a clinic in Minnesota for persistent, general musculoskeletal pain, 93 percent had vitamin D levels equal to or below 20 ng/mL, a level considered deficient by most experts.

Constant Respiratory Problems
Studies show that vitamin D may help defend against respiratory illness, and this is especially true in children. If your child has severe asthma, you may want to increase their vitamin D intake.ll breath may quickly spiral into a panic that your life is in immediate danger.

Sweaty Head
Years ago, doctors used to ask new mothers if their newborns’ heads were sweating more than normal. This can be a very early sign that a baby is vitamin D deficient. If you’re breastfeeding, it may be helpful to consume more foods that are rich in vitamin D or include some vitamin D drops in your regimen to make sure your baby is getting a sufficient amount.

Depression
As it turns out, the sun is vital to keeping a smile on your face. Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because it is activated in your skin by sunlight. If you live in a place that sees less sunlight than global averages, the lack of light could literally kill your mood. According to the Vitamin D Council, this essential nutrient helps your brain’s neurotransmitters produce serotonin, which affects our feelings of happiness.

Infertility
Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the development of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of female infertility. One common symptom of PCOS is acanthosis nigricans, which results in dark, velvety skin patches.
“In the fertility world we like to get a baseline on all of our patients and we see many who are deficient,” said Seattle-area registered dietitian nutritionist Judy Simon MS, RDN, CD, CHES, of Mind Body Nutrition.

Chronic Infections
Vitamin D is known to have an effect on over 2,000 genes in the human body, so it’s no surprise that the strength of your body’s immune system is also tied to how much vitamin D you are taking in. When there’s a healthy amount of vitamin D being processed by your body, your immune system is resilient and able to fight off infections and disease.

Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular diseases are heart conditions that may include damaged blood vessels or frequent blood clotting, among other issues. Articles published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that deficiencies in vitamin D can lead to congestive heart failure.

Psoriasis
Psoriasis may present itself as a scaly rash on your scalp or other parts of your body. Often it can be agitated by stress (unfortunately, finding out you have psoriasis tends to cause stress too). Although psoriasis is not always connected to a lack of vitamin D, the vitamin is sometimes used during treatment. The Mayo Clinic claims that if you have a lack of vitamin D, it will be harder for your body to defend itself against psoriasis.

Chronic Pain
If you experience chronic, widespread pain throughout your body, it could be due in part to a lack of vitamin D. This connection was only recently discovered. In 2010, researchers began looking into the link between chronic pain and a lack of vitamin D.

Tiredness
Vitamin D is one of the vitamins your body needs to create energy, and without it, you can end up feeling tired most of the day. This will make it hard for you to get around or even get to work. Without much energy, you may start changing your daily behavior in negative ways, which in turn may impair your overall health.

Hypertension
Harvard University conducted a review of health studies across numerous cohorts that associated increased risk of multiple health outcomes including cardiovascular disease and hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) with vitamin D deficiency.

Crankiness
As we mentioned in relation to depression, vitamin D affects the levels of serotonin in your brain, which is what affects your mood. If you’re feeling cranky, it might be because you’re not producing enough serotonin. Vitamin D will help your moods stay balanced by ensuring your brain is working with the materials it needs to stay energized and focused.

Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidneys help remove waste from your blood. When they’re not functioning correctly, your bloodstream can fill up with waste, seriously damaging your health. Doctors have recently connected kidney health to cardiovascular disease. They’ve also discovered how important vitamin D can be to your kidneys’ health.

Reduced Endurance
If you’re an athlete and you’re seeing your endurance decrease for no apparent reason, it might be because you have low vitamin D levels. Experts in athletic circles now realize that vitamin D is crucial to energy levels, especially when it comes to endurance. Even active people who get outside every day can experience these issues, despite getting more than the recommended amount of sunlight per day (20 to 30 minutes).

A Side Effect of Modern Life?

For many of us, work means days spent at a desk and leisure means binge-watching the latest Netflix series or catching up on social media. That’s a lot of indoor time, but even when we are outdoors we’re likely to double down on sun protection to prevent premature aging and skin cancer.

Dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, but milk sales are in decline, as more people avoid dairy due to restrictive diets, milk allergies, or lactose intolerance.

What’s your risk?
Although 4 in 10 Americans may be deficient in vitamin D, some people have a higher risk. As mentioned, if you spend a lot of time indoors and protect your skin with clothing or sunscreen when you are outdoors (as you should), your risk increases. Living in northern climates—where winters are longer, colder and darker—amplifies this risk. But a few other risk factors might surprise you:

  • Dark skin. The darker your skin, the more sun it takes to make vitamin D.
  • Body mass index (BMI) over 30. Vitamin D can become “sequestered” in excess body fat instead of making its way to the bloodstream.
  • Past gastric bypass surgery.

Why It Matters
Linke says that bringing vitamin D levels back to the normal range has been a “game changer” for many of her clients who have autoimmune conditions. She cites another client—a woman in her late twenties—whose vitamin D was a 4.

Within 10 days of starting vitamin D, along with magnesium (magnesium deficiency can interfere with vitamin D metabolism) and dietary changes, she was able to wear regular shoes and walk without assistance.

As with all health-related issues, talk with your doctor or another medical professional if you are seeing any signs or symptoms that concern you. Deficiency is simple to test for and simple to treat. If in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider.

Read the complete article here http://bit.ly/2lP2SE7.