Nutrition plays a significant role in an individual’s emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Those with professional nutritionist skills should know the impact of nutrition as an important tool to assisting the health and well-being of their clients.
When examining the foods that have a high impact on our physical and mental health, sugar is a top contender. Brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning are all closely linked to glucose levels, and how efficiently the brain uses sugar as a fuel source (Edwards, 2016). As the brain is one of the most energy-consuming organs in the body, it uses one-half of the sugar energy in the body (Edwards, 2016). Because the brain is dependent on sugar as an energy source, naturally it is also affected by excessive intake of sugar. From mood to mental capacities, sugar has numerous negative effects on the brain (Furhman, 2020). For nutrition counselors, it is important to understand these effects when advising clients on how to develop healthy habits.
A Closer Look at Sugar Addiction
When you eat something, it can trigger any number of bodily actions. In the case of sugar, the brain exhibits an especially strong dopamine response (Rivera, 2020). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that signals a positive event (Reichelt, 2019). Dopamine “hits” from consuming sugar reinforces this behavior and encourages a preferential taste for similar foods (Reichelt, 2019).
According to research, the feeling of reward is much the same for sugar as it is for those addicted to drugs or alcohol (Rivera, 2020). Foods that cause a spike in blood glucose produce a greater addictive drive in the brain than other foods (Fuhrman, 2020). In terms of nutritional health, this means that the negative effects of sugar are amplified by excessive intake. Research shows that high-glycemic foods such as sugar provoke more intense feelings of hunger compared to low-glycemic foods, leading to health problems relating to inflammation and weight gain (Fuhrman, 2020).
Given that sugary, energy-rich foods are so prevalent in our society, it has become easier than ever to satisfy those cravings. Students in nutritionist school should be mindful of this when counseling clients on making the right food choices for their health and wellness.
The Effects of Sugar on Mental Capacity
The effects of sugar on the brain can range from mood stability to memory formation and learning. When it comes to mood, sugary foods can cause sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels (Rivera, 2020). This in turn can lead to feelings of irritation, anxiety, or even depression (Rivera, 2020). A good nutritionist program will teach the profound effect that nutrition and diet can have on an individual’s sense of emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
When it comes to other mental capacities, high sugar diets have been shown to disrupt the key memory center in the brain (Reichelt, 2019). Research suggests that elevated glucose levels in the bloodstream can result in slowed cognitive function including deficits in memory and attention (Fuhrman, 2020). In contrast, efforts to regulate blood glucose levels can encourage efficiency in memory networks and their related cognitive functions, including learning and visual perceptions (Edwards, 2016).
Advising Clients on Sugar Intake After Nutritionist School
As a nutrition professional, it’s your job to coach clients in making dietary choices that will benefit their physical and mental health. Depression, addiction, and other challenges common to today’s world can make it trickier to motivate clients to make nutritional changes for their well-being.
The World Health Organization advises that we limit our intake of added sugar to five percent of our daily calorie intake, or 25 grams (Reichelt, 2019). While it is not always easy to break dietary habits, physical exercise can also encourage a reduction in sugar levels (Reichelt, 2019). Additionally, foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as fish oil, nuts, and seeds, can boost brain chemicals needed to form new neurons (Reichelt, 2019). As a health and nutrition counselor, you should encourage clients to take positive steps to facilitate future brain health and promote the overall wellbeing of the body.
Are you interested in earning your nutrition diploma?
Contact Rhodes Wellness College today!
Edwards, S. (2016). Sugar and the Brain. Retrieved from https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/sugar-brain
Reichelt, M. (2019). A Neuroscientist Explains What Sugar Really Does to Our Brains. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/research-shows-sugar-can-change-your-brain-here-s-how
Rivera, L. S. (2020). Effects of Sugar on the Brain: Cravings and Inflammation. Retrieved from https://blog.uvahealth.com/2020/01/15/effects-sugar-brain/
Fuhrman, Joel. (2020). Negative Impact of Sugar on the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-4065218