(Editor’s note: A colleague of ours at Spartan Race followed the basic advice implied within this article and lost 123 pounds in 100 days.)
To me, the case against sugar seems open and shut: It’s making us fat, it’s more addictive than cocaine, and—a recent study found—it’s shrinking our brains.
The study, from researchers at Boston University and published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, looked at 4,000 people over the age of 30 and found that consuming sugary drinks lowers both brain volume and memory scores.
More specifically, the researchers found that consuming just one or two sugary drinks a day ages the brain by nearly 6 years. More than two drinks a day ages the brain by 11 years.
In other words, if you’re a 39-year-old who enjoys a few sodas a day, you’re thinking like a 50-year-old. Has your performance at work been slipping? Now you know why.
Exactly how sugar wreaks havoc in our heads is unclear, but it appears to be linked to the over-activation of the brain’s reward system. When you cave to any addiction—whether it’s an opioid or an Oreo—the brain releases a shot of dopamine. Too much of the hormone can cause disorder. Our memory and learning skills weaken, susceptibility to depression and anxiety heightens, and, according to the study, brain aging may accelerate.
Don’t let sugar cravings control you. It’s easy to say, but how? The good news is you don’t have to go cold turkey. Aim to take a small step every day.
A guy I work with used to drop four packets of sugar into his coffee every morning. One day, after looking into the mirror after his shower and not loving the looks of the man staring back, he decided to quit sugar. That morning, he used three and a half packets. A few days later, he cut to three, and then two, and then one. Soon, he was off sugar entirely—and forever. It took only a few weeks.
Next time you crave a few cookies, reach for one and wash it down with a big glass of water. Instead of an oversize slice of birthday cake, ask for half a slice accompanied with some fruit or yogurt. Soon, you’ll be reaching for only water or only fruit. Instead of frosted flakes in the morning, you’ll crave a Greek yogurt.
I can’t promise you that this will be easy. But I can promise you that it’ll be a lot easier than you think. The best part: You’ll agree, because you’ll finally be thinking clearly.
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