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Question Your World: How Does Sugar Impact Our Brain?

How does sugar impact our brain? Well, this is a tale of two sugars - glucose and fructose. Both occur naturally, but one of them has a vastly different way of communicating with your brain. In one corner we have glucose, commonly found in pineapples and oranges among others. The consumption of this sugar registers a “full” feeling in the brain. So basically you eat enough of the foods with this in it and your brain thinks “Oh boy, I’m stuffed.” Now, in the other corner you have fructose, commonly found in sodas and canned foods. This is where the sugar story gets fascinating. Consumption of foods high in fructose does not register the “full” feeling in the body. Weird, right? Learn more in this week’s Question Your World Radio report by the Science Museum of Virginia.

This issue becomes a bit more alarming when we think about our day to day diets. Most fast foods and canned foods seem to come with a very heavy dosage of fructose. So, let’s say one is eating a tasty burger and drinking a soda to wash down the meal. This fructose-heavy meal prevents the brain from registering that there’s no more food required. Then a signal is sent to continue to desire food. The caloric intake of these foods is pretty high as is, and then you add in the fact that your brain is saying “keep eating!!!”

Scientists at Yale have been tracking the impact that sugar has on the functions of our brains and this data seems to line up with the eating habits of Americans. Sugar impacts our meal sizes as well. For example, just twenty years ago fast food meals were a lot smaller. Burgers were usually around 300 calories where as today they are in the range of 500 calories. Getting bigger.

Sodas are another good example. The average serving size of a soda was an 8 ounce bottle and currently we are served 20 ounce beverages. Making sodas go from being 97 calories to 242 calories. Getting bigger! Also, consider some breakfast items as well, like bagels. Twenty years ago they were made with a 3 inch diameter, clocking in at 140 calories. Today’s bagels are made with a 5 inch diameter and clocking in at 350 calories. Getting bigger!! So, it’s not just one meal of the day, it’s every meal every day. We’re eating more and we are…you guessed it…getting bigger! 

To keep your brain from always wanting to eat more than it needs investigate what you are putting into your body. Perhaps our knowledge of sugars will help provide a healthy perspective on our wellness and could prevent our bellies from getting bigger!

For more information check out the article on the Yale scientists findings.

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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