How Sugar Affects The Brain

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

This video from TED-Ed is brilliant!

It’s especially helpful at the 3:12 mark. It was so helpful to me that I transcribed it:

Speaking of healthy foods, let’s say you’re hungry and decide to eat a balanced meal. You do and dopamine levels spike in the reward hot spots. But if you eat that same dish many days in a row, dopamine levels will spike less and less, eventually leveling out.

Dopamine levels out with healthy food from Starling Fitness

That’s because, when it comes to food, the brain evolved to pay special attention to new or different tastes. Why? Two reasons: first, to detect food that has gone bad, and second, because the more variety we have in our diet, the more likely we are to get all the nutrients we need. To keep that variety up, we need to be able to recognize a new food and, more importantly, we need to want to keep eating new foods, and that’s why the dopamine levels off when a food becomes boring.

The brain gets bored of regular food for two reasons from Starling Fitness

Now back to that meal. What happens if in place of the healthy, balanced dish, you eat sugar-rich food instead? If you rarely eat sugar, or don’t eat much at a time, the affect is similar to that of the balanced meal. But, if you eat too much, the dopamine response does NOT level out. In other words, eating lots of sugar will continue to feel rewarding. In this way, sugar behaves a little bit like a drug.

Sugar behaves like a drug from Starling Fitness

THIS is why I have a harder time with wanting to binge about a month after eating healthy! I tend to go a little obsessive and eat the same stupid thing for breakfast every day. The same stupid thing for snacks. The same stupid thing for lunch. The only variety I get regularly is at dinnertime.

THIS is why I get all excited about a new recipe! Because my brain is telling me it’s AWESOME! But if I eat it too often, my brain will think it’s boring and urge me to eat other foods instead, especially those ones that feel REALLY good.

THIS is why I need to be vigilant. I need to give my brain lots of different taste adventures that are HEALTHY. I need to read recipes and try them. I need to watch out for my obsessive behaviors and not eat the same thing every day for months at a time until I don’t want to eat them anymore.

THIS changes EVERYTHING for me!


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