Can an excess of sugar cause aggression, impulsivity, ADHD and bipolar disorder?
Snacks, packaged sweets, juices but also crackers and sauces, sometimes these foods can hide a pitfall, fructose. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, as the name suggests. However, the food industry sometimes makes extensive use, in some cases a real excess, of fructose, adding it to preparations to give them more flavor and taking advantage of the fact that it has a very low glycemic index. However, fructose has some effects that should not be overlooked. In fact, fructose, when taken in high quantities, can increase overweight and obesity, can cause insulin resistance, liver problems and, as indicated by recent scientific research, can contribute to increasing irritability and aggression. The study in question was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior by a team from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (Johnson et al, Evolution and Human Behavior, Oct 2020).
Previous studies have observed that fructose triggers a survival mechanism whereby the supply of energy to cells is reduced and the body is ordered to accumulate fat as a reserve for periods of starvation. Therefore, this process is absolutely natural and, in cases where there was little food available, as could happen for our ancestors, also beneficial and capable of guaranteeing survival. However, nowadays, the Western world is experiencing a situation in which a food shortage is not a problem, on the contrary, we often have more food available than our bodies require. Not only that, especially in recent years, the food industry has placed on the market highly processed foods that contain high amounts of sugars, such as fructose, to improve the flavor of the food but also to create a sort of addiction to the product. Well, the scientists concluded that this excessive increase in fructose from processed foods may have over-activated the survival mechanism. In this way, processes are triggered that make the body believe that it is in shortage of food and that it is necessary to act quickly, increasing the aggressive component aimed at obtaining food.
Researchers believe that excess fructose can contribute to different types of problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or ADHD, bipolar disorder, aggression, as already mentioned, but also hasty decisions, impulsiveness and imprudence. These considerations clearly do not intend to blame fructose in case of aggressive behavior and they don’t intend to forget the role of familiarity and environment, but certainly the high fructose intake typical of the Western diet can play a role in the onset of these disorders.