Highly respected researcher Malcolm Peet has come across an extraordinary link between dietary sugar consumption and mental illness. This British psychiatric researcher has done an extensive analysis which proves a strong link between foods that contain sugar or convert to sugar in the body and the risk of developing both schizophrenia and depression.
According to his research, there are two ways that in-body sugar can influence mental health in a toxic way. As he reported in Psychology Today, first, sugar can suppress the activity and function of an important growth hormone in the brain called BDNF. This hormone regulates the health, functioning and maintenance of neurons within the brain. It also promotes new neuronal connections in the brain which support optimal memory function. BDNF levels in the brain are severely low in schizophrenia and depression. If sugar and sugar-forming foods are added to the diet, it can potentially bring on these conditions or make them worse. These two conditions very often result in shrinkage in the brain in areas which are affected by either depression or schizophrenia. In other word, brain damage can result.
Secondly, Peet discusses how sugar and sugar-forming foods triggers glycation in the body which contributes to a whole litany of chemical reactions that promote chronic inflammation. This is a different type of inflammation than results when the body needs to heal a small scratch or an insect bite. A little inflammation is necessary in the short term to trigger an appropriate immune response to heal a wound.
In the long term, a continuously irritating inflammation response in not a good thing, it actually disrupts the normal functioning of the immune system by making the various types of white blood cells lazy and unresponsive, in addition to causing problems in the brain.
There is increasing scientific evidence that inflammation is responsible for a whole string of serious and chronic illnesses and diseases, like arthritis, IBS, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimers, auto-immune diseases like Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, not to mention gout and acid reflux. A number of mental health challenges arise as well. Even if these diseases are not yet present, scientists say the risk and the potential for them is there.
The definition of sugar and sugar-forming foods include the actual sugar itself, in addition to high fructose corn syrup, flours, refined grains, cereals, cakes, cookies, candies, chewing gum, donuts, baked goods, puddings, pastries, ice cream, and any other product containing sugar.
Cave men didn’t eat sugar, because there wasn’t any for many centuries. We did have an innate sweet tooth which guided us to eat whatever fruit we could find, when it was available. Because fruit was relatively scarce or unavailable because it was too high in the trees, we didn’t have a problem with our sweet taste buds. When we discovered sugar cane a few centuries back, our sweet tooth became more of a curse. We developed cravings for sweet foods or foods that turned sweet in the body causing problems with foods we were not designed to eat consistently in large volumes. If you actually start reading labels in the supermarket, you will see how many products actually contain sugar or corn syrup. Some researchers are saying that corn syrup is even more dangerous than the toxic sugars in our bodies.
Peet suggests that as this research has come to light, he is encouraging his mentally challenged patients to cut out sugars and simple starches for a couple of weeks to see if they notice any improvement in their depressive symptoms. For the few that have had the courage and the determination of reduce their intake of sugars, breads, crackers and other refined foods, they have reported encouraging improvements in their mood, memory, mental clarity, focus and overall energy. Maybe it’s time to look at how your mental state is influenced by your diet.