Growing up, my mom was very conscious of the amount of sugar my siblings and I ate. For example, she had a rule that we weren't allowed to have any cereals that contained 10 grams or more of sugar per serving. "Too much sugar will rot your brain," she told us. Despite how sad I was to leave the Reese's Puffs on the shelf during a grocery store trip, my mom was kind of right. Sugar can be bad for your memory, and according to at least one expert, eating too much of the stuff can have seriously negative effects on your brain in the long-term.
Consider saving your sugary study snacks for after a big test instead of during your study session, because according to Dr. Eudene Harry, a physician and medical director for Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, reaching for sweet treats on the reg can keep your brain from forming new memories as efficiently as it should. "Studies suggest that overconsumption of sugar affects the ability to learn new information," Dr. Harry tells Elite Daily in an email.
But it's not just new memory formation that can potentially be affected by a major sweet tooth. Eating too much sugar over a long period of time, Harry explains, can actually shrink parts of your brain, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for your short-term memory.
Now, there's a difference between the kind of sugar you get when you eat a piece of fresh fruit, and the refined sugar that's in a lot of processed desserts. Even though fruit has a significant amount of sugar, you'd have to eat a huge amount of the fruit to equal the sugar content of a processed, sugary product, according to Dr. Harry. "One can of Coke has the equivalent amount of sugar of one orange, two plums, and 16 strawberries, but none of the nutrients and fiber," she explains in an email to Elite Daily. Makes sense, right?
What's more, a research review of three huge studies, published in the medical journal BMJ, showed how regular fruit consumption affects your health and, more specifically, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. After analyzing data from more than 187,000 people in total, the researchers found that eating more fruit, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But drinking fruit juice didn't have the same health benefits; in fact, "greater consumption of fruit juice is associated with a higher risk" of the disease, according to the research. So, again, straight-up fresh fruit won't do you dirty in terms of its sugar content, but fruit juice? That's the stuff you want to avoid.
Of course, your life wouldn't be very fun or healthy if you cut every single gram of sugar out of your life. So how much sugar is too much? There aren't studies yet on the exact amount of sugar it would take to impair your memory, specifically, says Dr. Harry, but the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women eat about six teaspoons (or 24 grams) of added sugar per day to stay healthy.
It's important to recognize that the AHA's recommendation only includes added sugars, not sugars from whole fruit. If you're snacking on something that's been processed, the AHA recommends checking the label for ingredients that end in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose. Additionally, watch out for a number of other sources of sugar, like high fructose corn syrup, molasses, and corn sweetener.
Of course, treating yourself to a super sweet cookie or a bowl of your all-time favorite ice cream isn't going to instantly turn your brain into a pile of mush. It's when you're consistently eating more than the daily sugar recommendation over a long period of time that your memory may suffer. So go ahead and savor your favorite cupcake to your heart's content, my friend, and maybe have an apple later on because, you know, #balance.