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How sugar affects the brain - Nicole Avena


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When you eat something loaded with sugar, your taste buds, your gut and your brain all take notice. This activation of your reward system is not unlike how bodies process addictive substances such as alcohol or nicotine -- an overload of sugar spikes dopamine levels and leaves you craving more. Nicole Avena explains why sweets and treats should be enjoyed in moderation.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Dr. Avena’s website has links to new research and articles about the effects of sugar on the brain and behavior, and how this can influence body weight.
Want to learn more about the adverse effects of sugar? Read Food Junkie, Dr. Avena’s blog on Psychology Today. Here is one post that is particularly relevant:
Sugar Cravings: How sugar cravings sabotage your health, hormone balance & weight loss, by Dr. Nicole Avena and Dr. Sara Gottfried.
Watch this video from The National on how food manufactures have tweaked products to increase the addictive nature of processed foods.
For an in-depth presentation on the research surrounding sugar overconsumption, watch Dr. Nicole Avena speak at the Obesity Action Coalition on current data and how too much sugar can be particularly detrimental to our society as a whole.
Click this link to a short video and article by Everyday Health on a study showing how milkshakes high in carbohydrates enhances the brain reward system and increases eating.
Learn more specific information by checking out Natural Reward Pathways Exist in the Brain. Be sure to go through “The Reward Pathway Reinforces Behavior” tutorial on this page to see how foods high in sugar affect the reward pathways.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Nicole Avena
  • Director Chris Boyle
  • Composer Michael Dow
  • Narrator Michelle Snow

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