High sugar levels lead to brain and memory deficits


Brain, an essential organ of our system, comprises only 2% of the body’s weight. But, it takes about 20% of the food intake. The brain is the organ that consists of more number of nerve cells and hence requires more energy. The primary energy provider is sugar, especially glucose. Thus, in the event of Diabetes, the susceptibility of the brain to complications increase due to high blood sugar levels. The quality of food we consume affects the structure and function of neurons. For instance, omega 3-fatty acids provide structural material. They also play an essential role in communication between the neurons, i.e., synaptic transmission.

In the event of less sugar intake, it results in poor memory and cognitive defects. In contrast, more sugar intake is also inadequate. For instance, it can cause oxidative stress and damage to cell membranes. Though ketones are a good alternative for glucose, it cannot wholly substitute glucose for fuel to the brain cells.

Why is glucose the only efficient fuel?

Glucose is known to be the most efficient fuel for brain cells. Better alternatives for glucose would be Fatty acids and amino acids. Fructose, which is also a component of sugar, is also not a better alternative. But, fructose as nerve cell fuel can cause aging of the cell.

Fatty acids

Fatty acids are not a better replacement than glucose as they are not known for crossing the blood-brain barrier. Moreover, the oxidation of fatty acids requires more oxygen than glucose. The process also releases oxygen free radicals increasing reactive oxygen species. It damages the cells further. This oxidation takes up most of the oxygen present, making neurons vulnerable to hypoxia conditions. Besides, the oxidation of fatty acids comprises dozens of steps for complete metabolism and assimilation, whereas glucose metabolism is simple (Glycolysis). Hence, you cannot use fatty acid spontaneously as that of glucose.

Amino acids

The amino acid catabolism produces Ammonium ions, which are similar to Potassium ions. They interfere with the Potassium pump, which maintains the cell’s potential. Moreover, the amino acids go through the Kreb cycle for oxidation, which in turn requires energy, not making it an efficient fuel for cells. Besides, the use of amino acid as an energy source reduces the available concentration of amino acids for protein synthesis.

What happens if the blood sugar level is low?

Hypoglycemia is a condition diagnosed when the blood sugar level is low. It is a condition in which the cells produce more insulin, and there is no sufficient sugar intake. The best treatment is high sugar foods. In the event of Hypoglycemia, the production of neurotransmitters reduces. The brain cells gradually experience loss of communication leading to neurological problems. This condition results in loss of energy for brain function leading to reduced attention, poor cognitive skills, mild paralysis, and balance issues.
The scarier part here is, hypo is not the real brain-killer, it is relapse. A sudden high rebound to sugar from hypo conditions effectively triggers brain damage and other brain complications.

How sugar levels affect the brain?

Diabetes is a condition diagnosed in the event of a high blood sugar level. It may be due to type-1 or type-2. In type-1, the pancreatic cells destroy, resulting in a little or no insulin production. In type-2, the cells are overwhelmed by insulin and, at a point, gain resistance and, thus, deny any insulin activity, increasing the blood sugar level. Hence, the characteristic symptom of both type-1 and type-2 is high sugar levels.

The consequences include cerebral small vessel disease. It is a condition in which the blood cells block or leak resulting in a hemorrhage. It also covers a variety of abnormalities in the small blood vessels present in the brain. Vascular Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and brain damage are, among others. The primary reason for Dementia is decrease in a brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Intranasal insulin (INI) is a treatment for the condition. It increases the insulin content in the blood, restoring memory, verbal learning, spatial orientation, and other mental capacities. High sugar is not the only reason. Hyperglycemia, hypertension, and high cholesterol accompanies the condition. It also increases depression, sadness, and anxiety.

The activity of sugar in the brain

Sugar addiction

Sugar can develop high-spark in the system over a short period. It releases Dopamine into the system, giving a sense of pleasure. People use sugars like chocolates as a mood stabilizer, which only produces Dopamine and Norepinephrine in the system, making them feel better for a while. In the long-run, the effects of addiction are obesity and Diabetes. It also makes you feel low with anxiety and depression over time. Satisfying the brain’s craving with chocolate now and then is pleasurable, but when the dependence is too frequent, that’s when you run into problems. Sugar gradually hijacks the brain’s reward center.

To inhibit the craving, we should hinder the impulse. It affects the network of inhibitory functions (present in the prefrontal cortex) – involved in decision-making and impulse control. It reduces the brain’s activity to take control over the decisions and behavior.

Memory impairments

Fructose damages the synaptic activity in the brain, impairing communication. Besides, insulin is the most crucial protein that strengthens the synaptic connection; when lowered, impairs cognition. The condition makes it difficult to remember memories, making the brain weaker by time.

Depression and anxiety

In case of sudden peaks and drops in blood sugar levels, it makes you more susceptible to mood swings and irritability. When the level spontaneously drops back down, you feel anxious and moody. However, consuming sugars triggers the release of Serotonin as in Diabetes. Continuously over-activating Serotonin, depletes its supply, resulting in depression.

Related: The world of depression is, in fact, GREY

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