In today's food environment, it is challenging to avoid sugar. And for many, the more you eat, the
more you want. People we refer to as having a sweet tooth.
You may even have heard that eating sugar will lift your mood. Or that eating chocolate will make you
feel happy.
And while it is true that sugar impacts the pleasure/rewards area in the brain, it results in an addictive
cycle of depression and a craving for more sugar to improve low mood.
Excess sugar is harmful throughout the body, and research shows that a regular high sugar intake
over time will negatively impact the mental health of even healthy individuals.
Recent studies have found a link between high sugar consumption and common mental disorders. Of
course, this is not to say that sugar causes mental illness, but it does play a negative role in long-term
psychological health.

The Effect of Unstable Blood Sugar on Mood

A diet high in sugar has a very negative effect on blood sugar, causing a roller coaster effect.
When your blood sugar drops after a sugar high, your brain triggers the release of adrenalin, leading
to feelings of anxiety, anger or depression.
You may feel like your emotions are out of your control
Although we need more research, current studies suggest that mental illness is 23% more likely in
people with high sugar consumption.
Research shows a relationship between unstable blood sugar and mood disorders. This means that
paying attention to diet and lifestyle, the primary drivers of unstable blood sugar, could improve mood

How does Sugar affect Neurotransmitters?

The food we eat influences our brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
Sweet foods have an impact on the short term reward area in the brain, increasing dopamine
Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, so you’d think increasing this chemical would be a good thing. But
an excess of dopamine can trigger mania and lead to hallucinations and even schizophrenia.
Serotonin is another feel-good hormone, and while it influences mood and feelings of overall
happiness, you may be surprised to learn that 90 % of it is made in the gut.

Hundreds of essential chemicals for mental processes are made in the gut. The gut communicates
with the brain and plays a crucial role in mental health.
Overloading the gut with sugar and junk food causes dysfunction in gut bacteria. When gut bacteria
do not function well, it affects the production of serotonin.
Furthermore, B- vitamins are essential for serotonin production. But B vitamins are also needed to
metabolise sugar. So when B vitamins, especially folic acid, are used up metabolising sugar, there is
none left for serotonin production.


We are familiar with psychiatric conditions associated with chemical imbalances. But another role
player in brain health is inflammation.
Research has established that inflamed brain cells release inflammatory cytokines disrupting the
average production of serotonin and glutamate, key transmitters involved in mood and psychotic
One of the major causes of inflammation in today's diet is refined carbohydrates. Refined
carbohydrates include all processed sugars – sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, etc.

Final Word

Many of us have believed that eating sugar is necessary for our brains. This is not true. The brain
requires glucose, and the body makes the required amount of glucose in the liver. Glucose can also
be obtained from healthy carbohydrates found in vegetables.
The next time someone offers you chocolate to lift your mood, remember that the sugar high might
pick you up for a little while, but it will drop you down lower than before.