With midterms wrapping up and finals on the horizon, sugary and salty snacks have found their way into the diets of more than a few students. While such foods are tempting and always available for the on-the-go student, a sugary escape from deadlines and cramming can have significant effects on the body.

Sugar, in particular, can have many effects on the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling the reward or pleasure portions of the brain. The consumption of sugar causes a release of dopamine that dwarfs the release from foods like fruits and vegetables. Unsurprisingly, cravings tend to centre on soda and candy rather than fruit, for example.  As the brain becomes accustomed to high levels of sugar, it requires more to maintain the same result. Ultimately, cravings for these high sugar foods become stronger, throwing off this delicate chemical balance.

Another significant effect of sugar on the body is insulin resistance. In order to break down sugar in the bloodstream, insulin is produced. When excess sugar is consumed, extra insulin is needed, which over time can cause the body to develop a resistance to insulin. In short, it becomes more difficult for the body to control blood sugar. This can cause constriction in the arteries which stresses the heart. Links to heart disease and diabetes have been reported in studies with rats consuming high sugar diets. Still, the less severe symptoms alone should provide a student with enough motivation for cutting down on sugar.

For many, salty foods are another favourite during high stress periods and post-exam celebrations. High salt consumption is widely accepted to be linked to high blood pressure due to its strain on the arteries. The body’s reaction is to make the artery walls stronger, subsequently narrowing the arteries and then raising blood pressure. This is a cyclical process that restricts organs from receiving oxygen. A wide range of complications are related to this, from mild cognitive impairment to kidney failure.

Less severe, though more common among students is the possibility of hypernatremia, which is caused by dehydration when the level of sodium within the body becomes overly concentrated. While the issue here is mainly lack of water, a high salt diet is thought to exacerbate the issue. Some of the most pertinent effects of hypernatremia for students include lethargy, irritability, and restlessness.

The long-term results of excessive sugar and salt intake can be avoided simply by consuming less. Moreover, these are just some of the effects salt and sugar have on the body and a host of information is available on the subject. Researching on these ingredients is a significant step toward a healthy lifestyle, something that offers benefits far beyond academic performance.