Lent began this week. If you're Catholic, or just like to challenge yourself to abstain from something once a year, you might be giving up sugar for the next 40 days. Here's how that might affect your brain. Photo by Uwe Hermann.
Science site The Conversation explores the concept of sugar addiction, and what it's like when we deprive our bodies of sugar. To a certain extent, sugar is a natural part of our diets, present in fruits humans have been eating for millennia. In modern diets, however, sugar is everywhere. You may be overdependent on sugar without even realising it. Giving it up for 40 days (whether for religious reasons or scientific ones) can yield some unexpected results:
You might wonder how long it will take until you're free of cravings and side-effects, but there's no answer — everyone is different and no human studies have been done on this. But after 40 days, it's clear that Andrew had overcome the worst, likely even reversing some of his altered dopamine signalling. "I remember eating my first sweet and thinking it was too sweet," he said. "I had to rebuild my tolerance."
At the most mild, you might notice that once you start eating sweets again, it takes very small amounts of sugar to overload your taste buds. In the more extreme cases, your body may even go through symptoms that resemble withdrawal (if studies performed on mice are any indication).
Here's what happens to your brain when you give up sugar for Lent [The Conversation via IFL Science]