Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Sugar & Mental Health

High sugar intake increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease, and it can negatively impact mental health.  People with mental health disorders consume on average two times as much sugar as healthy individuals.  New research indicates that high sugar intake can cause symptoms associated with the mental health disorders.

Researchers fed two groups of juvenile mice a diet with the same calory intake and proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for 50 days.  They tested 8 different behaviors in the mice.  The main carbohydrate was either starch or sugar.  The high sugar mice suffered from decreased working memory, hyperactivity, and decreased sensorimotor gating function.  Sensorimotor gating is a protective function in the brain that filters out irrelevant sensory and cognitive information, allowing individuals to focus on appropriate information.  Deficits in sensorimotor gating are common in people with PTSD and schizophrenia.  The high sugar mice also suffered from weakened intake of the main fuel for the brain (glucose) from the bloodstream. 

Takeaway: Decreasing sugar can reduce the risk of physical and mental health problems.


Shinobu Hirai, High Sucrose Diets Contribute to Brain Angiopathy with Impaired Glucose Uptake and Psychosis-Related Higher Brain Dysfunctions in Mice, Nov 10, 2021, Vol 7. Issue 46 Science Advances,

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