We all know that added sugars are linked to childhood obesity and other chronic diseases, but something that is often overlooked is the effect of sugar on a child’s brain.
In this episode, I sat down with Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist, an expert in nutrition, diet, and addiction, and the author of 5 books. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and a Visiting Professor in Health Psychology at Princeton University. She is also a sought-after speaker and media expert and has appeared on shows like the Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors.
We talked about what happens in the brain when it gets a hit of sugar, and what research tells us about the link between sugar and ADHD, mood disorders, self-control, cognitive function, and memory. We also talk about how sugar can affect the gut microbiome and in turn, the brain, how stress increases sugar cravings, and what you can do to limit the amount of sugar in your kid’s diet.
4:00 Let’s first talk about your story and your path to neuroscience, nutrition, diet. and addiction.
6:53 What happens to the mind and body when we consume sugar?
8:50 What is the process that happens with our dopamine receptors when we eat added sugars?
11:01 Can the consumption of sugar make you crave more sugar and is there a difference between natural and added sugars?
15:54 How does sugar affect the gut microbiome and in turn, the brain?
19:12 Sugar has been likened to cocaine, but is it really the same?
23:49 Does research support a link between sugar consumption and cognitive function and memory?
27:00 Does research support a link between sugar consumption and ADHD, other mental health issues, mood/behavior, self-control, etc?
29:00 How does blood sugar dysregulation affect the brain?
31:58 How does high-sugar consumption affect neurotransmitters?
36:01 Can overconsumption of sugar have long-term effects on kids’ health?
37:44 I read that high sugar consumption can reduce the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF)—what are these and why are they important?
39:09 Why and how does stress increase sugar cravings for kids?
43:19 What are tips for parents to reduce the amount of sugar in their kids’ diets?
LINKS MENTIONED IN THE SHOW
Julie mentions her Fox News article that included Dr. Avena as a source.
Julie mentions her “Food Issues” interview with Dr. William W. Li
Julie mentions last week’s episode of “Food Issues,” Too Much Sugar in Baby Food with Katie Thomson, MS, RD, co-founder and CEO of Square Baby.
Learn more about Dr. Nicole Avena on DrNicoleAvena.com
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