We’ve known for years that sugar isn’t generally good for your body. But frightening new studies show that sugar affects us in another crucial area: our brains.

A flurry of studies have been released over the past few years showing the powerful impact sugar has on our brains. These studies show that sugar does more than cause obesity and diabetes: it also impedes with the normal functionality of your brain.

Studies have shown that sugar can lead to poor memory and cognitive functionality, for example. There’s also growing research that it can fail to stimulate hormones – like insulin – that send signals to your brain telling you that you’re full.

Now, it’s important to note that not all sugars are bad. In fact, your body converts most of the food you eat into sugar. However, there’s a difference between good and bad sugar.

“Good sugar” is glucose. It’s the sugar our bodies make when we consume bread and pasta. That sugar is used to fuel our cells, helping to boost energy throughout your body – including your brain.

“Bad sugar” is fructose. However, fructose isn’t always bad. It’s the type of sugar found in fruits and vegetables, for example. When you eat fructose in fruits and vegetables, it’s generally harmless. However, when you eat fructose from soft drinks, honey, and processed foods (including condiments, salad dressings, and junk food), fructose can be very detrimental to your health.

One Study Shows Sugar is Addictive

You might be proud of the fact that you’re not addicted to any drugs. However, a recent USC study showed that sugar is highly addictive.

It takes only a small amount of sugar to stimulate the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that our brain releases when you want to “feel good”. Dopamine is also the neurotransmitter that’s released when drug addicts or alcoholics get another hit of whatever they crave. It’s the chemical that pushes you towards constantly seeking that “high”.

In the USC study, participants who ate foods with fructose instead of glucose experienced more hunger and cravings.

Participants in the study were given a meal with fructose or glucose. Then, they were given the option of eating more tasty food immediately after the study – or having money sent to them one month later.

The group that ate the fructose meal “had a greater willingness to give up the money to obtain immediate high-calorie foods, compared to when they consumed glucose”, explained lead researcher Dr. Page in an interview with Quora.

Sugar Ages your Skin

Sugar doesn’t just target your brain and waistline. It also affects the quality of your skin. Sugar ages your skin more rapidly by breaking down the collagen and elastin within. This prevents the cells from repairing themselves.

The worst part about this skin damage is that there’s no way to heal the damage once premature wrinkles have formed. Your only option is to reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet and hope that the damage doesn’t get any worse.

Sugar Prevents You from Feeling Full

Sugar will actually numb your overeating sensor, preventing you from feeling full. This appears to take place over the long-term. Recently, researchers discovered that an activity called chronic consumption will numb your brain’s anorexigenic oxytocin system, which is the same system that prevents you from overeating. In other words, your body might be full – but your brain never receives the signal to stop eating. So you’re more likely to continue eating.

Sugar Reduces your BDNF Factor, Which Reduces your Ability to Learn and Form New Memories

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that helps your brain learn and form new memories. When your brain’s BDNF level is low, it has trouble absorbing new things and forming new memories. Your memory literally diminishes.

Scientists have also recently discovered a link between low BDNF and diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression, and dementia.

How is any of this related to sugar? Studies have shown that sugar reduces your BDNF factor. That could put you at risk of developing serious cognitive problems.

Yes, You Can Experience Sugar Withdrawal

Like many other addictive substances, sugar can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Suddenly eliminating sugar from your diet can cause the same reactions as drug withdrawals, including teeth chattering, anxiety, tremors, and head shakes.

That’s a problem for some people: after reading an article like this, you might be tempted to reduce or eliminate your sugar intake. If you quit cold turkey, and your sugar consumption is very high, then you might experience withdrawal symptoms.

Should You Be Scared of Sugar?

Studies have shown that most fructose in the American diet comes from the use of added sugar sweeteners. Simply eliminating these sweeteners from your diet makes you significantly healthier than a good portion of the population.

Yes, you should be scared of sugar: it’s important to be wary of any foods that can harm you. Understand the difference between glucose (good sugar) and fructose (bad sugar, except in fruits and vegetables). Consider meeting with a dietitian to talk about changing your food intake. Stop adding more sugar to your diet in the form of sweeteners.

As more and more research comes out, it’s becoming more apparent how devastating of an effect sugar can have on your waistline – and your brain.