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How Added Sugar is Destroying Your Brain

Ever wondered exactly what those tiny white crystals are doing to your brain? From cognitive degeneration to depression, we unpack the alarming effects too much added sugar can have.

Brain fog

You might notice cognitive symptoms like poor mental clarity and brain fog arise when you live off a high-sugar diet. Research shows the gut has a direct link to the brain and gut inflammation throws our neurotransmitters out of whack, leading to those cognitive symptoms. Common gut bacteria like Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes can cause inflammation when we’re lacking good gut bacteria, and the cause for this is often down to a diet high in added sugars and trans fats, with studies showing the latter results in a higher amount of C-reactive protein – this is one of the markers for inflammation.

Some of the other distressing signs of a dysregulated microbiome include the following:

  1. Gut pain
  2. Bloating, especially after eating
  3. Diarrhoea
  4. Constipation
  5. Fatigue
  6. Unusual food sensitivities

If we don’t restore our gut health and combat inflammation, we can end up at a greater risk for developing a number of diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders and mental health disorders. 

Low mood and poor mental health

We know how rapidly sugar can affect our mood in the short term – ever chowed down on a chocolate bar for a quick burst of energy, only to crash soon after? And it’s not just our energy that plummets, we often start feeling down and listless. But it’s also the long-term effects of excess sugar consumption that has researchers worried – studies have shown rates of depression are greater in those who eat a high-sugar diet, while another study shows anxiety is reported in higher numbers in those with that some diet. One study found people who drank two soft drinks a day had stress hormone levels 22% higher than those who did not, showing a link between mental health, the gut and sugar. The gut doesn’t just influence digestion and immunity, it also plays a major role in hormone regulation and mental health – there’s a reason they call it the “second brain”. The gut relies on the same neurotransmitters as our brain, and it’s why issues with your gut and an imbalanced microbiome can affect your mental health, with studies showing dysbiosis – the name for a dysregulated microbiome – increases our risk for disorders like anxiety and depression. 



With the average Aussie consuming 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, many of us are at a high risk for developing a range of dangerous health conditions, from obesity and heart disease to degenerative brain diseases like dementia. Excess sugar consumption is believed to raise your chances of experiencing cognitive decline, and one reason for this is that excess sugars promote inflammation, along with increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which researchers have found to be a risk factor for dementia. Some studies show that high amounts of fructose can result in insulin resistance in the brain, which research shows may further contribute to the cognitive degeneration that affects Alzheimer’s patients. High fructose intake may also result in impaired memory and learning function, with sugary drinks found to be particularly culpable and may have more damaging effects on the brain as opposed to other sources of added sugars. One study shows a loss of brain tissue as a result of metabolic syndrome, a condition which is defined by the presence of a number of factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol, and we know excess sugar consumption has a direct link to this condition.   

Need a little help getting your health goals started? We’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program. We’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health.

With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:

  1. 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
  2. 90+ member-only recipes.
  3. Community forums to share your journey.
  4. Support and guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
  5. Exclusive content from our panel of experts.

So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!

2 Responses

I Quit Sugar

I Quit Sugar

March 06, 2023

Hi Laura, thank you for your lovely comment! We’re so glad you’re enjoying the content – all the best on your health journey!
The IQS Team

Laura Harris

Laura Harris

March 06, 2023

This article provides such valuable and useful information – information which, unfortunately, we do not learn from our primary care physicians. One of the many features I love about the I Quit Sugar 8-Week program is the articles provided. They are short and sweet snippets of healthy and helpful advice. The information is presented so that it is easily understandable and it is reinforced and repeated in different articles, each being just the right length to read without a long time commitment. Well done IQS team!

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