Processed food sugars could also cause bipolar

Every mother knows that sugar affects the behaviour of her children—but scientists have discovered the sugar in processed food and drink could also be triggering bipolar disorder.

Fructose corn syrup, the sweetener used in processed products, triggers ADHD (attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder), aggressive behaviour and bipolar, the serious mental problem once known as manic depression.

Our sugar intake is in ‘overdrive’ because of the high amounts in the typical Western diet and may well be behind the surge in ADHD cases in the past 20 years or so, say researchers from the University of Colorado.

They think they understand why fructose corn syrup is having such a damaging effect. It lowers energy in our cells and that triggers a ‘foraging response’ that is usually seen when someone is starving; in turn, this encourages risk-taking, impulsivity, rapid decision-making, and aggression. It’s a basic survival response that makes sense when we are actually starving but can cause ADHD, aggressive behaviour and even bipolar when we’re not looking for food.

Other factors—such as genetic, environmental, and emotional—also play a part in these disorders, but fructose corn syrup needs to be added to the list of likely suspects, the scientists say.

(Source: Evolution and Human Behavior, 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2020.09.006)