A new study published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has found that sugar sweetened beverages has an even more adverse health impact than previously realized. Thirty-five percent of adults and 17% of children in the United States are obese based on studies from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The study compared sugar sweetened beverages to beverages sweetened with aspartame.
Considerable concern has evolved over the years as to the health impact of these beverages and the study examined the impacts of consuming sugar and aspartame sweetened beverages on a group of 19 women between the ages of 18 and 40. The study consisted of a 12 day period where women drank one of the assigned beverages at breakfast, lunch and dinner and were instructed not to consume other sugar=sweetened beverages including fruit juice.
The women consumed a standardized low-sugar diet and stayed at the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center’s Clinical Research Center. After the investigative period the women underwent functional MRI screenings to investigate the impact of these beverages on the brain. It was determined that women who consumed sugar sweetened beverages had an impact on their brain function making them more susceptible to memory problems and stress. The hippocampus is part of the brain that is involved in memory and stress response and the study revealed more activity in that region.
“This is the first evidence that high sugar — but not aspartame — consumption may relieve stress in humans,” said one of the study’s authors, Kevin D. Laugero, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. “The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual over-consumption of sugar and amplify sugar’s detrimental health effects, including obesity.”
“The hippocampus typically is less active when the body is under stress. When the study participants drank sugar-sweetened beverages, this response was inhibited. The findings offer new clues that help explain how sugar positively reinforces the temptation to eat comfort food when a person is stressed”, Laugero said. “The results suggest differences in dietary habits may explain why some people underreact to stressful situations and others overreact,” he said. “Although it may be tempting to suppress feelings of stress, a normal reaction to stress is important to good health. Research has linked over- and under-reactivity in neural and endocrine stress systems to poor mental and physical health.”
Matthew S. Tryon, Kimber L. Stanhope, Elissa S. Epel, Ashley E. Mason, Rashida Brown, Valentina Medici, Peter J. Havel, Kevin D. Laugero. Excessive Sugar Consumption May Be a Difficult Habit to Break: A View From the Brain and Body. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2014-4353 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-4353