Link Between Sugar and Mental Illness

In case you didn’t know, mental instability is also a component of metabolic syndrome. It takes longer to develop but it’s still very much a part of the collection of symptoms. Already, stories are out there showing that the greater amount of insulin circulating in the bloodstream, the less able the body is able to destroy the amyloids of Alzheimer’s. Insulin Growth Factor is unable to do its job in the face of too much insulin.

To add to that, we already know of Ancel Keys’s famous starvation studies performed upon conscientious objectors during the war years back in the 1930-40s. It’s well documented how people on high carbohydrate diets became mentally unstable to the point that they cut off body parts and constantly complained of cold and hunger. Even if they ate 10,000 calories per day, they would complain of hunger at night.

Now, we have a new headline where scientists have found a link between sugar and mental illness. Joseph Garner, an associate professor of animal sciences, fed a certain strain of mice, predisposed to hair pulling and scratching, a diet high in sugar and tryptophan that was expected to reduce abnormal hair-pulling. Instead, mice that were already ill worsened their hair-pulling behaviors or started a new self-injurious scratching behavior, and the seemingly healthy mice developed the same abnormal behaviors.

Dr. Garner studies trichotillomania, an impulse-control disorder in which people pull out their hair. The disorder, which disproportionately occurs in women, is thought to affect between 2 percent and 4 percent of the population.

Mice that barber, or pull their hair out, have been shown to have low levels of serotonin activity in the brain. That neurotransmitter is known to affect mood and impulses. Dr. Garner hypothesized that increasing serotonin activity in the brain might cure or reduce barbering and possibly trichotillomania.

Serotonin is manufactured in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan, which is consumed in diets. The problem is that tryptophan often doesn’t make it across the barrier between blood and the brain because other amino acids can get through more easily and essentially block the door for tryptophan.

Dr. Garner modified a mouse diet to increase simple carbohydrates, or sugars, and tryptophan. The sugars trigger a release of insulin, which causes muscles to absorb those other amino acids and gives tryptophan a chance to make it to the brain.

Dr. Garner fed the mice eight times as much sugar and four times as much tryptophan and he noticed a doubling of serotonin in the brain yet the mice only got worse. He then took normal mice and put them on this diet and they too developed symptoms and those with mild symptoms got much worse.

Some of the mice developed ulcerated dermatitis, a fatal skin condition thought to be caused by an unidentified pathogen or allergen. Garner saw that the only mice that contracted the condition were the scratchers. This prompted the Dr. to hypothesize, what if ulcerated dermatitis is not a skin condition at all; rather a symptom of a bad diet?

Once the flood gates opened, they began a chain of thought that lead to very interesting possibilities? What if the diet high in sugars also affect mental illness, autism and Tourette’s Syndrome? And finally, what if the increase in sugar in the American diet is contributing to the higher incidences of these diseases?

His research has not definitively shown that, but it’s quite easy to draw a parallel. Any of the diseases that are not established in populations that don’t eat sugar can be said to be either directly or indirectly caused by a consumption of sugar greater than what the body can tolerate. We already know from Diabetologist George Campbell’s work on South African sugar plantation workers that if the sugar consumption rises above 70 pounds per person per year, then the diseases of civilization all appear in places where they previously were non-existent.

That would lead me to include that yes, Dr. Garner, you are definitely on to something! Keep researching. You may actually figure it out some day.

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Posted on December 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm by Charles · Permalink
In: Alzheimer's, Depression, Diet, Disease, Insulin, Sugar

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