Stress and Sugar: What Do They Have In Common?

In Wellness by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

It’s shocking to believe, but having soda pop and doughnuts while you’re stressed may damage your brain. Those who over-consume sugar are automatically at a higher risk of type-2 diabetes, tooth rotting issues, and obesity. A new study from the University of New South Wales, Australia, found that the effects of sugar on the brain are equivalent to the effects of stress on the brain.



What Were the Findings?

This study monitored changes in DNA for both male and female rats that consumed sugar water. Female rats were observed to have their stress worsen when they consumed the sugar-water. Researchers found that females, including rats, are at a higher risk for traumatic life events. These events include childbirth and hormone-related issues.


There were four groups in the study including the main control group whose normal conditions did not change during the experiment. One group of rats was not under any stress triggers but was given the sugary water. Another group had rats in normal stress conditions. Rats in another group experienced stress when they were given the sugary concoction. The non-sugary drink groups were given normal water and food while the other two had 25% sugar incorporated within their water for drinking purposes. The observation period lasted 3 months.


To complete the study, the rats had brain scans. During these brain scans, researchers found that the stressed rats that weren’t given sugary items were small at the beginning, but gradually grew. Another observation was that the rats in both sugar-consuming groups took in more calories by the end of study, causing them to gain an excess amount of weight. This means that both groups of sugar-consuming rats put on weight, even though the two groups had different stressors. This proved that both stress and sugar have the same effect on the rats.


Another observation was that the nerve growth and neurological areas of young rats were also altered through the over-consumption of sugar. It is likely that, if the same thing happens to humans, children who over consume sugar daily have a risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, altered nerve growth, and possibly increased stress levels.


What Does Sugar Do to The Human Brain?

Beyond those research findings, sugar has been shown to have a harsh effect on the brain in other studies, too. In the journal Nature, researchers compared sugar consumption with consumption of drugs and even alcohol. Researchers concluded that because of the effect sugar has on the brain, sugar usage should be regulated and organized by law. Not only does sugar consumption make people gain excess amounts of weight, but it can also cause heart disease, liver issues, and even affect a consumer’s metabolism. In the United States, more than 80 percent of foods contain an abundance of sugar, even ones that claim to be healthy.

Those who are affected by sugar may not even realize it, because the symptoms may seem like they’re caused by something else. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Stress eating
  • Aging skin
  • Foggy or clouded brain
  • A dragging workout


These symptoms are eerily similar to those caused by stress, which has the same effect on the brain as sugar does. In order to prevent sugar-related health conditions, limiting the amount of sugar consumed is essential.