Can Sugar Improve Mental Performance?

Although glucose is the largest source of fuel for the brain, it is not necessary to eat sugar to ensure proper functioning and better mental performance. Learn more in this article!
Can sugar improve mental performance?

Until recently , many believed that sugar could improve mental performance. Recent studies, however, question this claim. Now scientists know that the body has very effective mechanisms for supplying glucose to the brain, even without the need to eat sugar.

The brain depends on a constant supply of glucose from the bloodstream in order to maintain proper function. Therefore, it competes with the rest of the body’s organs for glucose when levels drop. If this happens, the following mechanisms arise:

  • First, glucose is extracted from the blood.
  • Thereafter, the amount of glucose that the rest of the body’s cells receive is limited.

On the other hand , the body has other ways to get this nutrient if the blood sugar level drops due to a deficiency of food. The main mechanism for this is gluconeogenesis. It consists of the formation of glucose from proteins and fatty acids. Overall, it is an effective mechanism that allows the body to maintain safe blood sugar levels when fasting or when a person is not getting enough carbohydrates.

The brain as a puzzle where some pieces are missing

Sugar intake and memory

Some studies associate the administration of sugar with an improvement in short-term memory. This type of intake usually consists of drinking something that contains sugar. The results show that intense mental tasks respond well to glucose administration.

Until recently, experts claimed that the brain works optimally with 25 grams of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. This is about the amount that a banana contains. Recent articles, however, conclude that people with higher glucose tolerance have better memory.

This situation is vital for people with diabetes since they develop insulin resistance, which means that glycemia is not well tolerated. Therefore , the body has very effective mechanisms that are able to get glucose from proteins and fatty acids to maintain blood sugar levels. In this way, the brain gets the right amount of glucose, which ensures effective mental performance.

On the other hand , studies have shown that hydration plays a major role in cognitive performance. Therefore, an individual who is even slightly dehydrated will have lower scores on skills related to memory, concentration, attention, etc.

Refined sugar: Worse than complex carbohydrates?

Some articles claim that the intake of refined sugar results in a short-term memory loss after eating it. Studies have also shown that sugar intake can even lead to cognitive impairment and the development of complex diseases sometimes.

On the other hand, the incidence of ADHD is higher in adolescents with a diet high in saturated fat and refined sugar compared to those on a healthier diet.

Foods that will improve mental performance

Although regular sugar can negatively affect cognitive functions, other nutrients can improve brain function. An example is caffeine in moderation, which acts as a natural stimulant and helps increase and maintain brain health.

A white cup in a pile of coffee beans

Nitrites found in foods such as beets also increase vasodilation, which therefore increases blood flow to the brain. The main consequence of this is a greater contribution of nutrients to the brain and an improvement in cognitive performance.

Some vitamins, such as vitamin C, can also have positive effects on mental performance and health. These vitamins can help prevent cognitive impairment, as happens in patients with Alzheimer’s.

So can sugar improve mental performance?

Glucose is the largest source of fuel for the brain. However, eating foods with sugar is not necessary to ensure proper brain function. The body has very efficient mechanisms that ensure that enough glucose reaches the brain to maintain brain functions.

Eating too much sugar can actually lead to a deterioration of cognitive functions and the development of complex diseases. This is why it is best to eat a healthy and balanced meal if you want to improve your mental performance and brain function. In addition, you can, for example, eat foods that are high in vitamin C and nitrites if you need a quick increase.

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