The Secret Behind Sugar, Your Brain & Obesity

Metabolic Syndrome & DepressionLifestyle Disease & Mental HealthDiabesity & feeling angry/sad/anxious

Call it what you want, these conditions are driving up the costs of healthcare and making more and more of us feel like crap 24 hours a day.

What if I told you that the food you eat and when you eat it is having a HUGE effect on how you feel, how you act, what you crave, how you look and how long you’re going to live.

What if I told you that your morning muffin and frappucino is screwing up your brain chemistry, making you crave more sugar, wrecking your  energy processing system and is driving and is you towards obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.

fat fit guys

What if I told you that an increasing number of mainstream obesity researchers are discovering proof that the consumption of sugars…

  • When you eat them
  • How much of them you eat
  • How long you’ve been overeating them

…leads directly to insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, etc, etc, etc…

Here’s the science

In this study from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the brain to discover that  when individuals with insulin resistance consumed a sugary drink, they “experienced a lower-than-normal release of the chemical dopamine in the pleasure centre of their brains”.

pet scan

This means that instead of getting a normal “feel good” response from that 500 calorie red velvet cupcake, Mr or Mrs Obesity is going to keep feeling the need/compulsion/addiction to eat a second cupcake…and a third..and a fourth as they try to self-medicate with sugar.

But wait…those people in the study were already insulin resistant – their sugar processing system was already broken – and mine is just fine.

Maybe. Maybe not.

It is estimated that 34% of the American public are “officially” insulin resistant. And for the remaining 66% who aren’t insulin resistant, I thought you might be interested in how a person processes sugar and how they may eventually become insulin resistant.

  1. You eat sugary food
  2. Those sugars are absorbed into your bloodstream
  3. Your pancreas secretes insulin thereby increasing cell permeability to blood sugar , increasing enzyme activity in cells leading to the sugar being removed from your blood and transported to your muscles, liver and even converted into body fat.

Unfortunately, like any other machine, if you overwork your pancreas by keeping your bloodstream full of sugar, it’s ability to drive sugar into your cells starts to break down…

  1. your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin…
  2. and the sugar stays in your blood…
  3. and your pancreas keeps pumping out more and more insulin…
  4. and your cells become more insulin resistant…
  5. and eventually the system breaks down…
  6. leading to obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, etc, etc, etc.

And as we just found out in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, insulin resistance and the consumption of sugary drinks doesn’t just make you fat and diabetic…it screws up your pleasure centre.

You are literally decreasing your feelings of happiness by eating a diet of sugary, starchy, carby foods. Which leads to the consumption of even more sugary foods…creating a very, very unhealthy vicious circle.

Is there a way to prevent or even reverse this problem? 


  1. Improve the quality of what you eat…start by reading this.
  2. Pay attention to when you eat your sugary/yeasty/starchy/yummy carbs – see the research below

In this study, researchers found that “a fifteen minute walk after each meal appears to help older people regulate blood sugar levels and could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” They found that “three short post-meal walks were as effective at reducing blood sugar over 24 hours as a 45-minute walk of the same easy-to-moderate pace. Moreover, post-meal walking was significantly more effective than a sustained walk at lowering blood sugar for up to three hours following the evening meal”. That post-dinner walk controlled blood sugar well into the night and the early morning of the next day.

And it’s not just seniors who would benefit from these findings. Anyone who wants to…

  • Lessen the negative impacts of their carb-heavy diet
  • Lose body fat by controlling their sugars & insulin
  • Gain muscle mass by force feeding their muscle cells sugar post-workout.


  1. Eating a carb/sugar heavy diet leads to high blood sugar, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, etc.
  2. Eating a carb/sugar heavy diet screws up the pleasure centre of your brain
  3. Your body is adaptable and can recover from your former carb/sugar heavy diet
  4. Eating fewer carbs helps reverse high blood sugar, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, etc.
  5. Eating slower absorbing carbs helps reverse high blood sugar, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, etc.
  6. Eating your carby/sugary foods before or after exercise helps reverse high blood sugar, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, etc.
  7. You don’t need to run a marathon to get this exercise/blood sugar effect – a 15 minute walk after you eat will help keep your sugar-processing system working as it was designed.


Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

2 thoughts on “The Secret Behind Sugar, Your Brain & Obesity

  • June 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

    According to a recent article in the New York Times, focusing on calories from sugar will do little to combat obesity since it plays only a minor part in the increasing number of calories being consumed by Americans. In fact, as obesity rates continue to climb, sales of soft drinks have actually declined by 12.5% since 1998: The fact is that obesity isn’t uniquely caused by the consumption of one specific food, drink, or ingredient. There are many risk factors at play, including age, genetics, stress, and physical inactivity.

    -Maureen Beach, American Beverage Association

    • June 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

      If we’re assuming that obesity is strictly an issue of caloric consumption…I would agree with you.

      But it isn’t – what you eat, when you eat it, how much of it you eat all play a part.


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