7 Ways Sugar Affects Mental Health, Backed By Science

7 Ways Sugar Affects Mental Health, Backed By Science

Not everything from sugar is sweet.

In this post, you’ll discover the specific ways too much sugar affects mental health.

Two hundred years ago, the average American consumed only 2 pounds of sugar per year. 

By 1970, that number had jumped to 123 pounds.

And today, sugar consumption hovers around152 pounds per year for the average American. That breaks down to eating about 3 pounds of sugar within a week. 

But it’s not just an American problem.


In Britain, the average adult consumes about twice the recommended level of added sugar. 

At the same time, for high-income countries, major depression (an effect of sugar — more on that later in this article) is predicted to be the chief cause of disability by 2030.

In this article, we will take a look at how consuming too much sugar affects our mental health, wellbeing, and mood.

But before we dive into that, let’s clarify one question you probably have at the back of your mind.

Are natural sugars bad for you?

Short answer: No. Natural sugars help us to thrive and live a healthy lifestyle. 

They come with an array of important vitamins and nutrients that give us valuable health benefits. For example, sugar from blueberry benefits.

But, sugar additives are what we must be wary of.

Manufacturers generally add sugar to tons of food and have the potential to cause health problems. 

Unlike food and drinks which contain natural sugar, added sugar provides absolutely no health benefit.

Also, they are a poor energy source. This is because the body digests added sugar at a fast pace.

How does sugar affect mental health and mood?

In general, when we eat too much sugar it can lead to basic as well as severe health problems, that you can see immediately or over a long period.

Now let’s take a close look at what excess artificial sugar can do to our mental health and mood.

1. Linked to increased depression 

Several studies have linked excessive sugar consumption to depression.

One of those studies was comprehensive research of over 10,000 participants over 22 years between 1983 and 2013. 

The results, published in the Scientific Reports, found an adverse effect of higher sugar intake on mental health.

Blood sugar and your mood are directly connected. These two are related to each other. 


Ever wondered why we get a bit of a rush from having ice cream when we feel a little low? 

The link between the two is even stronger about blood sugar spikes and lows. 

Studies have found that when the blood sugar is uneven, you are prone to more mood swings.

This results in an increased risk of depression and dependency on various foods to uplift your mood and feel better, thus increasing the addiction. 

2. Increases levels of stress 

When we are stressed, our mood and state of mind changes. We don’t think clearly.

And it could even lead to severe psychological problems like anxiety.

Our body kicks either into fight or flight mode when we experience stress. This releases hormones in a large amount. 

Just like this, our body has a similar chemical response when blood sugar is low. Stress hormones begin to adapt to rising blood sugar after eating something sweet. 

Copious amounts of sugar induce stress, anxiety and even shakiness and irritability. All these can adversely impact your mental health. 

3. Increases the risk of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is now being called Type 3 diabetes by many.

Increased levels of sugar also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

4. Makes you restless and hyperactive

Sugar rush is real. Eating too much sugar can lead to increased depression, anxiety.

Also, it can cause even more severe symptoms to those with schizophrenia. 

The roller coaster of high blood sugar if often characterized by a crash that accentuates mood disorders more. 


It can cause high restlessness and hyperactivity so much that sometimes you can’t fall asleep.

5. Can lead to cognitive decline

Excessive intake of sugary foods affects not only global cognitive functions. But also visual as well as verbal and visual memory.

More precisely, beverages and cakes and deserts infused with sugar were found to increase the risk of cognitive impairment.

6. Leads to energy loss and drain 

The myth of sugar rush just increasing energy is false.

Foods that have a high amount of added sugars decreases your energy rather that boost. 

This is because while you feel that rush due to the sugar, it momentary and crashes. Hard. This is true if you feel tired after eating.

Taking all your energy with it, the energy-draining-cycle continues when one is addicted to sugar.

Instead of sugar-loaded foods, consider eating energy-boosting foods that will recharge your body.

7. Causes constant hunger and needless snacking

Sugar turns into fat in the body, being a carbohydrate.

Since it affects blood sugar and insulin resistance, it spikes our hunger and leaves us wanting more. 


Explains why when we have one eclairs or kinder joy we want another and another. It is a highly addictive substance. 

It causes a neurotransmitter response in our brains that makes us feel so good, and we experience what is known as a “mildly high.” 

So we feel hungry and keep on eating in his vicious cycle and end up snacking at all times at night and gaining weight. 

Instead of snacking on sugar-infused foods, choose healthy snack alternatives to junk food so you stay healthy.

Related: Cutting Down Sugar? 10 Practical Things to Try That’s Not Willpower


Our mental wellbeing is important if we want to live healthier and meaningful lives.

And one of the ways we can take care of our mental state is by watching what we consume. Stay away from excessive artificial sugars.