By now, it’s largely taken as gospel that overconsumption of sugar is one of the most prevalent and insidious causes of weight gain. Thanks in part to the lobbying of the food industry, sugar consumption rose by 25 percent between 1970 and 2000, in almost exact parallel with the increase in high-fructose corn syrup production and obesity, according to a review by the Union of Concerned Scientists. By 2013, a review of literature in PLOS Medicine had analyzed eighteen scientific conclusions drawn from systematic reviews of studies on the link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and weight gain or obesity. Among reviews conducted by scientists without any reported conflict of interest, ten out of twelve found that sodas and other sugary beverages could be a risk factor for weight gain. Overconsumption of sugar has also been linked to health conditions that range from cancer risk to feelings of depression.
But a new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior just shed light on some alarming new side effects attached to the overconsumption of sugary foods. The research from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus suggests that sugar could play a key role in driving several manic behaviors, including aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, and attention deficient hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD).
“We present evidence that fructose, by lowering energy in cells, triggers a foraging response similar to what occurs in starvation,” notes lead study author Richard Johnson, MD, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
That foraging response, the researchers write, could play a role in driving “risk-taking, impulsivity, novelty seeking, rapid decision making, and aggressiveness to aid the securing of food as a survival response. Overactivation of this process from excess sugar intake may cause impulsive behavior that could range from ADHD to bipolar disorder or even aggression.”
The researchers argue that the drive to consume more sugar is inherent in our brains as an evolutionary “pathway” that ensure our survival. But given all of the available sugar options at our fingertips, this “survival pathway” is now on “overdrive.” That inherent response could contribute to the aforementioned disorders—as well as manic depression.
“Chronic stimulation of the pathway could lead to desensitization of hedonic responses and induce depression,” the study concludes. “A hyperactive foraging response driven by high glycemic carbohydrates and sugars may contribute to affective disorders.”
The University of Colorado’s Johnson notes, “We do not blame aggressive behavior on sugar, but rather note that it may be one contributor.”
Consider this latest research yet another reason for cutting back on your sugar intake. To help you do so, we’ve compiled just a few of the foods you’re eating that you had no idea were high in…