What happens to your brain when you give up sugar

James Brown

Reducing sugar intake has clear health benefits, including reduced calorie intake. But people sometimes report experiencing negative side effects when they try to eat less sugar. Headaches, fatigue or mood changes, which are usually temporary, are among the symptoms. It’s likely these symptoms relate to how the brain reacts when exposed to sugary foods.

Beyond the improved taste and “mouthfeel” of foods, sugar has profound biological effects in the brain. Sucrose activates sweet taste receptors in mouth which leads to the release of dopamine in brain. When we’re exposed to a rewarding stimulus, the brain responds by releasing dopamine – which is why it’s often called the “reward” chemical. Reward governs our behaviour – meaning we’re driven to repeat the behaviours which cause dopamine to be released. Dopamine can drive us to seek more sugary food.

Dopamine also regulates hormonal control, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety. As sugar is removed, the rapid reduction in dopamine’s effects in the brain would likely interfere in the normal function of many different brain pathways, explaining why people report these symptoms.

It’s important to acknowledge that sugar isn’t “bad” per se – but that it should be eaten in moderation alongside a healthy diet and exercise.


> Source: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210818-what-happens-when-you-quit-sugar