The Effect of Sugar on Child Development

By | 18 February 2021

What is Sugar?

It’s no secret that sugar can have devastating effects on heart health and waist circumference. However, scientific studies were also able to increase the evidence to support the theory that high sugar levels have negative effects on a child’s brain, from psychological well-being to cognitive function.

A research study conducted at the University of Southern California found a disturbing link between memory and sugary drinks. These refined beverages contain high levels of carbohydrates that can cause metabolic disturbances when ingested in large quantities. The study also found that increased  intake interferes with the brain’s ability to function normally, or even remember small details about the person’s environment if consumed in large quantities before adulthood.

Researchers at UCLA conducted a study on mice in 2012, and one of the key findings was that increasing sugar intake slows the brain down, as well. They found that mice consuming too much fructose impaired brain synaptic activity. Simply put, communication between brain cells was impaired. Increased levels tend to increase resistance to insulin, a hormone vital to the functioning of the brain, through blood sugar control.

Excessive sugar levels in children can cause interactions with neurotransmitters responsible for keeping mood steady. This often leads to depression and anxiety in children. Also, high sugar levels can cause inflammation of cells in an area of ​​the brain known as the hippocampus. This space plays a critical role in organizing and storing memories, as well as connecting senses and emotions to those memories.

While this is still a controversial topic, sugar has an addictive effect on both children and adults. Like drugs, sugar fills the brain with dopamine, a feel-good chemical, thereby interfering with the normal functioning of the brain. A study conducted at Yale University found that the image of a simple milkshake activates the same reward centers of the brain as cocaine does with addicts. In fact, another study conducted in 2007 found that the subjects (rats) preferred sugary water to cocaine.