What is the Science Behind Sugar Crashes?

Quinn Pedrick, Managing Editor

Coming off of Halloween, most kids (and adults) get a stockpile of candy that very rarely would one choose to portion and savor over a long period of time but instead consume a concerning amount of sugar in a singular night. This common large consumption of chocolate and sweets in general is a wonderful experience as the sweet tastes and smells flood your senses making you joyous and hyper, your hands shaking and mind running a mile a minute with the smile on your lips not ceasing until CRASH. The one downside to a candy overload is that the human body apparently cannot handle it despite how many times we have tried to test that limit as a whole species every Halloween evening. That begs the question: what is the scientific explanation for why sugar crashes occur?

The answer is shockingly simple; it is a simple fact that you think we would all recognize and learn from. The answer is in our blood sugar, the amount of glucose in a bloodstream by milligrams per deciliters (mg/dL).

Sugar or glucose is the stuff that practically keeps us alive and healthy. It is what gives all organisms energy, which they need to complete any sort of task whether it is for survival or not. Even though sugar is vital to the human body, it is also quite a dangerous and harmful substance. When there is too much glucose in the bloodstream, the glucose will start to cause the organs to deteriorate and become damaged, which can lead to dangerous health complications or even become fatal. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of sugar in the body in order for people to have enough energy but also not die from organ failure.

Diabetics do not have the ability to properly produce and transfer insulin to the correct sources, which is why they have to inject themselves with the hormone regularly, at varying amounts, depending on the amount of sugar they have consumed. Sugar does not only come from sweet treats like candy bars but also from carbs, which are in a whole lot of everything we eat. That’s why the consumption of anything and the amount of insulin needed to artificially apply is such an important matter for diabetics.

As for overindulging, there is a process completed by the body called hypoglycemia when there is an excessive amount of sugar consumed. Hypoglycemia, the fancy word for a sugar crash, is when the body reacts to having so much glucose in it all at once by rapidly producing insulin, much more than what is needed to balance the equation, and the mass production of insulin causes a rapid decrease in glucose, which is the energy organisms need to function. When the glucose rapidly decreases, so does the ability to do tasks in a functioning manner, which resembles that physical and mental crash we have after consuming a whole bag of candy.

Sugar crashes have a simple answer and solution that few humans would decide to abide by: choose to control the amount of packaged sugars to a small amount in order for the human body to not become overwhelmed and respond poorly and almost ineffectively. If you consume just a few pieces of candy, your body will still do its job in the right way without resulting in a miserable slump after such a glorious sugar high of productivity and/or chaos.

Now you know why sugar crashes happen, so what would you like to learn next? Let me know in the comments.