Excessive sugar intake may increase the risk of aggressive behaviour, bipolar disorder and ADHD, suggests study

·3-min read

Sugar does not have the best reputation when it comes to how it affects your health. Excess sugar intake is linked to many health problems like inflammation, high blood pressure and fatty liver.

Now, a group of researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have presented a hypothesis that taking a lot of fructose (a kind of sugar present in fruits or high fructose corn syrup, which is a sweetener added to processed foods) may increase your risk of developing behavioural disorders, including aggression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder.

The study has been published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.

Fructose and the foraging behaviour

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that we obtain from honey, fruits, fruit juices and vegetables. High fructose corn syrup, an artificial sweetener, is present in a lot of processed foods including canned fruits, candies and soft drinks. Previous studies have suggested that fructose intake may be associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome since it starts a foraging response in our body which is similar to starvation or fasting.

During times of food shortage, our body utilises sugars first, then fats and then proteins. Since proteins are the building blocks of the body, it may lead to muscle wasting along with loss of important proteins needed for normal functioning of the body. Thus, the body tries to rely on fat during starvation to conserve proteins and maintain overall health.

Fructose has a different metabolic pathway than glucose, which is the main sugar in our body. This pathway depletes energy (opposite to glucose metabolism which produces energy) and leads to the production of uric acid and storage of more fats in the liver.

Studies suggest that serum uric acid spikes within a few minutes of fructose consumption and that it is this uric acid that may be leading to metabolic disturbance. Reducing uric acid levels has been shown to reduce the early symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

As per the latest study, while modest intake may protect the body from the side effects of starvation, excessive intake of fructose, specifically high fructose corn syrup, can stimulate craving, risk-taking, impulsivity and aggression and increases the risk of ADHD and bipolar disorder. Long-term and excessive fructose intake may also lead to depression.

However, the study authors mentioned that this link does not negate the other risk factors for mental health such as emotional, familial, environmental and genetic.

Reducing fructose intake

According to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, decreasing fructose intake for even as less as nine days can have significant effects on health and metabolism.

However, you don't need to cut fruits and vegetables from your diet for this since they contain many nutrients and not just fructose. However, moderation is recommended. Experts suggest that you have about five servings (80g each) of fruits and vegetables every day.

Here are some other ways to reduce your fructose intake:

  • Reduce your intake of processed foods like canned fruits and vegetables and bottled juices.

  • Cut down your soft drink intake.

  • Always look at the ingredients list while buying packaged foods. Avoid those with too much-added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

For more information, read our article on Signs that you are addicted to sugar.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India's first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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