Sugar & Inflammation: Just How Bad Is It?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

We all know that sugar is flat-out unhealthy for us. But what exactly does it do to your body and brain? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen share another popular segment from their End of Mental Illness live class and challenge. In this episode, you will learn all about the effects sugar has on your biological system, and why you should take steps to limit your sugar intake.

For more info on The End of Mental Illness live class and challenge, visit

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Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.

Daniel Amen, MD:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to

Dr Daniel Amen:              Hi.This is Dr.Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                      I’m Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:              We’re so excited you’re with us for this week series. What we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the End of Mental Illness.

Tana Amen:                      We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class and the people who joined us had just saw such an incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. We wanted to share this with you. We hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:              There’s a question on what about diabetics? We are told not to eat bread,rice,potatoes and pasta, right? Because they increase your diabetes.What solution do you have for us? Eat like I’m telling you, smart calories, drink your water, healthy protein, healthy fat, complex carbohydrates like vegetables and low-glycemic fruit. The evil ruler will tell you something’s healthy when in fact it’s not healthy at all.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I just went and got a powerbar.People think of it as healthy. It’s called maltitol, which will give you gas, natural flavor, which often means MSG, which is bad for you. It’s got all oligofructose, which is sugar, fructose, which is sugarcane, invert syrup, which is sugar, sugar-canola oil. There’s a question on why is that bad for you? Because it increases inflammation in your body. It’s an Omega-6 fatty acid.So when it says healthy, please read the label.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Sugar is not your friend. It is pure calories. It’s got no vitamins, minerals or protein, just carbohydrates. It’s void of minerals needed for enzymes. It can cause a chromium and copper deficiency. It interferes with calcium and magnesium. We’ll talk about that. It increases inflammation. So we just put a circle around that. It increases erratic brain cell firing and has been implicated in aggression and it delays healing. And that’s why I get really weirded out with Gatorade on the sidelines of football games, is you have a concussion and now they’re going to give you Gatorade, which is sugar water with artificial dyes. One of our best blogs ever was on red dye number 40 and how it can cause behavioral problems. And some people, and I talk about a case where that in fact was the case and but yet you’re giving this stuff to yourself or your children and you’re not thinking. This program is about thinking. “I’ve cut my sugar way back and since the challenge.I feel my thinking is clearer.” Thanks James for saying that.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Is there a meal plan to help us get started? You bet. There’s a whole chapter in the End of Mental Illness called Food Made Insanely Simple. And then of course you should get Tennis Cookbook, the Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook. She says it’s her best Cookbook by far.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Sugar has been associated with ADHD and hyperactivity, increases the bad forms of cholesterol, feeds cancer cells, increases slow waves, depression and it makes you dumb. Alters learning and memory. But in one study, adding Omega-3 fatty acids to sugar actually helped minimize the damage. I’d just say take the Omega-3s, kill the sugar. On our podcast, I interviewed Dr. Robert Lustig. He has this great YouTube video. It’s got eight or nine million views called Sugar:The Bitter Truth, and he actually argues that it’s addictive. It is the primary cause of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cholesterol problems and diabetes and that fructose in particular from fruit juice. You watch this video, you will never drink fruit juice again. I promise you.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And sugar is hidden in all sorts of things like fast food, grilled chicken. I went on McDonald’s website and I just looked at the ingredients for their grilled chicken salad and it had sugar in the grilled chicken, which was just horrifying to me. And bread, I challenge you. Go to the grocery store and just read the food labels on bread. So bread all by itself without sugar, turns to sugar in your mouth. Bread turns to sugar in your mouth if you chew it long enough because your mouth has an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down the carbohydrates basically to sugar. So you chew a piece of bread long enough it turns sweet.

Dr Daniel Amen:              All right. I don’t have time to go over this, but these are the top 20 carbohydrates in the United States. Are any of these good for you? Well I think the banana and the apple, but besides that, no. These are all weapons of mass destruction, and they make you fat and unhappy. And we went over, although during the Superbowl some of my friends were watching football. I was playing with our database and what I did, because there was a Superbowl party that I knew about nearby and I just went over to say hi and nothing but terrible food. So it just gave me the idea. I went and looked at our database, I looked at 20,000 patients and I put in each area of their brain and their weight, normal weight, overweight, obese, morbidly obese. There was a linear correlation. 20,000 people as their weight went up, every area of their brain when down, which should scare the fat off everyone.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Now high blood sugar is bad because it erodes your blood vessels and damages your brain. But low blood sugar can also be bad if you have any of these symptoms. And I think I told you last week, I’m in Justin Bieber’s new docu-series seasons and I’m in episode five and some of the later ones, and when he first came to see me, he’d gotten into all sorts of trouble. I mean, yes, he had worldwide fame, but Justin also had worldwide shame and I’m so proud of him of the person that he has become, but I actually caught a very low blood sugar for was super low. So one of the interventions to get him well is you need to eat four or five, six times a day. So he’s actually somebody that should not do intermittent fasting. So if you have any of these symptoms, you don’t want to go too long without eating because the low blood sugar will cause you to do things, perhaps you shouldn’t.

Dr Daniel Amen:              “Sugar substitutes that I don’t like ?” The blue packet, the pink packet, the yellow packet and maltitol because it gives a lot of people gas, but I’m a fan of stevia and erythritol and erythritol’s probably my favorite, has no calories. There’s, you know, if you have too much, it can be hard on your digestive system, but overall it is my favorite. Number six, eat from the rainbow. Put foods in your diet of many different colors, natural colors. This does not mean Skittles ,because it boosts antioxidants and again, a linear between the number of fruits and vegetables you eat a day and your level of happiness.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Seven cook with brain-healthy herbs and spices. We think of the spice cabinet as the medicine cabinet. Garlic and oregano boost blood flow to the brain. Saffron has antidepressant effects in our serotonin mood support. We have a saffron extract. We’re coming out very soon with a new product called Happy Saffron that has saffron and curcumin because curcumin decreases inflammation and also zinc which helps the conversion of serotonin in your brain. Rosemary thyme and sage have been found to enhance memory, ginger, cayenne, pepper, black pepper, boost your metabolism and cinnamon can help your focus and also is a natural aphrodisiac for men. What about Monk fruit? So I’m a fan of Monk fruit as well and I think stevia is an alternative but you have to be careful. Even with erythritol and stevia. The more you have, the more you’re going to want.

Dr Daniel Amen:              The next principle is get rid of toxic foods. So sugar and almost all the artificial sweeteners, we discussed almost all processed food, gluten found in wheat, barley and rye? Why gluten? There’s a whole section on it in the book because it increases leaky gut syndrome, which then will increase inflammation and cause pain and all sorts of problems. Dairy, I’m not a fan of dairy. I know there’s a lot of questions about that. It’s like, well, why aren’t you a fan of dairy? I’m a fan of dairy. If you are a baby cow, not if you’re a baby human. Why? Because most dairy is raised with antibiotics and hormones, which are not good for you. And I’m just, you know, there’s a lot of sensitivity. You had a lot of ear infections when you were a child. One of the first interventions, rather than give you antibiotics, is get rid of the dairy.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So I inquired because their Omega-6 fatty acids and can increase the incidents of inflammation in your body. And I know some of you are going, but what do I eat? And we have an exercise for you. I just need you to find 20 foods you love that love you back. That’s going to be the theme for the things you do this week. Foods you love, that love you back. Do you think a 40 day fast is a good idea to detox? Actually, I think you should be detoxifying the crappy food for the rest of your life. Drew Carey said it best is that crappy food is not a reward. It is a punishment. The more you eat healthy, the healthier you’re going to be and feel. You should check out food allergies. Here’s some information on gluten.Can cause overall lower blood flow in the brain. For some people who have schizophrenia, a drastic reduction in symptoms can improve ADHD symptoms in a subset of patients.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s associated with coordination and cerebellar activity and has been associated with atrophy shrinking of the hippocampus, so I’m just not a fan for people. Bread is my crack, gluten and casein protein from milk exposed to pepsin, one of the enzymes in your stomach and hydrochloric acid ,degrade gluten and casein exposed to pepsin and hydrochloric acid, go to polypeptides called exorphins, and these exorphins cross the blood brain barrier and they bind to endorphin receptor sites in the brain. What does that mean? It works like heroin. You get a mild euphoria and we can actually block that effect with the opioid blocker naltrexone.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I want you to think about this. Bread and dairy get transformed in your stomach. Two exorphins, one’s called a gluteomorphin. The other’s a casomorphin that cross the blood brain barrier that work on the heroine centers of your brain. And this just totally explained Christmas to me. My mom’s a great cook. I love my mother. She’s 88 years old, she’s a little spitfire and she’s an awesome human being and she’s a great cook. And she used to, she didn’t know any of this. Shed make pizza on Christmas day and I would have eight slices. It was so good. I craved it, I wouldn’t eat anything. And then I’d show up on Christmas and I just couldn’t stop. I was like her pizza addict. And then I realized that bread and cheese work on their own centers of my brain. And so I would actually eat before I would go over just so I’d have a good blood sugar and I’d make a good decision.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And then we want you to eat based on your type. So, and if you go to the Brain Health Assessment, hopefully all of you have, its one of your tasks. Go to Brain Health Assessment, know your brain type will actually give you a specific dietary recommendations for your brain type. So if you’re the spontaneous person, high protein, lower, simple carbohydrate diet. But if you’re a persistent person, you need more healthy carbs, smart carbs or the low carbohydrate diet will actually make you mean. So check that out.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Okay, I want to talk about supplements. Now, the theme of this is natural ways to heal the brain. We want to use the least toxic, most effective treatments not start something that will be hard to stop and medication should never be the first and only thing you do. Think nutrition and skills, not just pills, but there are benefits to nutritional supplements.

Dr Daniel Amen:              You never have to tell an insurance company you’re taking them. Did you know if you take psychiatric drugs, ,it can affect your ability to get health insurance, longterm care insurance, disability insurance, even life insurance? Supplements are almost always less expensive. They’re generally significantly fewer side effects, but not no side effects. That’s why BrainMD, we pick things that have the least amount of potential for trouble. That’s why we don’t make St John’s wort, for example, because even though it can work well as an antidepressant, it has problems. It can actually decrease the effectiveness of some medications including birth control pills. It’s like, Oh great, I was depressed and I’m not depressed, but I’m pregnant. Not a good idea. And they’re very effective often for mild to moderate problems and they have more compliance because they have fewer side effects. But supplements can have the downside. They can be more expensive because they’re usually not covered by insurance. Many people are not aware of potential side effects. There can be quality control and standardization issues, which is why I formed the brain MD company.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I want you to know in my drawer, in my bathroom, I only have our supplements. Why? Because I know the quality. I know where they’re made, how they’re made, and I trust them and what it says is in the bottle as far as the ingredient, the active ingredients, it will be there on the day that the supplement expires. So quality matters.

Tana Amen:                      If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode and while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.