How your brain gets its energy to work
Your brain is powered by mitochondrial furnaces, and just like any power supply these need energy to function. Just like any power system, the mitochondrial furnaces need constant feeding. This is supplied by the glucose in your bloodstream, and because the neurons in your brain can’t store glucose it’s necessary to have a constant supply flowing around your body.
This requirement for glucose is satisfied by the sugars you eat. Thinking, learning, and remembering takes a lot of energy – in fact, the nerve transmission in the brain takes up nearly 10% of your body’s entire energy usage.
When you get your blood sugar levels right, your brain power increases and natural sugar helps this process along.
Mental exhaustion is real
Mental exhaustion is a very real phenomenon. Studies have shown how energy-depleting thinking can actually be. In 2001, a study by Gold and McNay, published in the Journal of Gerontology, showed a 48% decline in glucose levels in the brain among rats that had undertaken a maze related task. It took 30 minutes for the rats to recover that energy.
Professor Gold further found that while glucose levels can remain high enough to support consciousness, they can deplete to a low enough level to inhibit learning and memory.
Too much or too little sugar is bad for your brain
When you consume a large amount of sugar quickly, you get a short term boost to energy levels. However, the rapidly consumed sugar promotes insulin production in the body. This reduces the amount of glucose available for your brain to function properly. This is why you often feel tired after a large meal or a couple of alcoholic drinks: you get that energy burst, rapidly followed by a drop in blood sugar levels.
A high sugar intake over time can lead to type 2 diabetes. This, in turn, can lead to narrowing arteries and less glucose arriving where it’s needed – the brain.
On the other hand, too little sugar is bad for your brain power, too. A University of Edinburgh study showed the processing of auditory and visual information is severely diminished when glucose levels in the body are lowered.
So you need just the right amount of glucose to make your brain work perfectly.
Why natural sugar is good for your brain
When you eat foods with a lot of added sugars, you get a spike in blood sugar that is harmful for brain energy. Yet we need energy for the brain to function. The best way to get this is to eat foods that contain natural sugars which are more easily broken down by the body.
Processed foods contain enormous amounts of added sugars, but eating fresh fruit and vegetables, and home bakes goods made with natural sweeteners like stevia products and xylitol products, will give your brain the energy it needs without overloading it.
Natural sugars deliver their energy to your body over time; helping the flow of glucose to your brain and making you focus faster and longer. You’ll also find your memory improves. In fact, research conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona indicates that elderly people with a high added sugar diet are almost four times more likely to develop cognitive impairment – a forerunner to Alzheimer’s.
The message is clear – natural sugars are good for your brain, and for that extra sweetness kick in your foods then use natural sweeteners in all your home baking.