Too much sugar is not good for your brain.

You probably know that sugar consumption is the number one cause of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). But did you know there is a strong connection between T2DM and cognitive decline?

Eating a healthy diet including B vitamins, antioxidants, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in seeds, nuts, and fish) is linked to better cognitive function even as people age. On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and low in omega-3 fatty acids is linked with lower cognition and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is the precursor to T2DM. It decreases blood flow to the tissues, including those in the brain. High insulin resistance is linked to impaired learning and memory.

In just a few years of living with T2DM, brain tissue can shrink and psychomotor skills can become weak. T2DM is linked to cognitive deficits, impaired intelligence, and declines in executive functioning. As the illness progresses, the more compromised the brain becomes.

How can you avoid T2DM? First identify if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Overweight

  • Age 45 or older

  • Siblings or parents with T2DM

  • Exercise or activity 3 or fewer times a week

  • History of gestational diabetes in pregnancy or having a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth

If you have any of the risk factors, starting a lifestyle change program like the Cognitive Health Program is a great first step. Reducing sugar and carbs from your diet is critical to success. You’ll need to add some physical activity as well. It’s ok to start out slow, but eventually you’ll want to be exercising 5 times a week.

As you begin your program, remember these sugar hacks:

  • Don’t keep it in the house. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.

  • Swap white flours for whole grain or plant flours like chickpea or almond.

  • If you have a sweet tooth you just can’t shake, have a few bites of dark chocolate (shoot for 85% cocoa).

  • If you need a snack, grab a handful of raw veggies, hummus, or nuts.

  • Trade in soda for sparkling water.

If you’ve been building your sugar habit for years or even decades, it’s going to take a while to knock it down. Be patient with yourself and take baby steps. Saying no to even one donut or cookie is a win when you first start out.