Yes, sugar addiction is real. You can actually get hooked on sugar. Some animal studies show that sugar can actually be 8 times more addictive than cocaine (see www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0000698.
That there is added sugar in certain products is not always obvious. It is found in many processed foods that have taken over the market. According to dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, our taste buds and biology have been hijacked by these processed, high-sugar foods. They drive our hormones and neurotransmitters to eating more. The facts are that there is an overload of processed food items in our environment, and over 80% of them contain added sugar. In America, it’s gone as far as the average American eating 1 pound of sugar every day (see also www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/dr-mark-hyman-shows-deadly-sugar-addiction-article-1.1608553).
Sugar addiction. How does it work?
Sugar fuels the cells of the brain. It affects your brain in a way that other foods don’t. It sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you eat a lot of it, you are reinforcing the reward, which makes it very difficult to break the habit (www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-sugar-addiction). The role of the neurotransmitter dopamine is central to this reponse. When you eat, dopamine is released into your brain. Dopamine makes us feel good. This effect is proportional. The more exciting a food is (it’s new or it’s overly fatty/salty/sugary), the more dopamine will be released (www.cheatsheet.com/life/sugar-addiction-is-real-and-heres-how-it-happens.html/?a=viewall). Over time, foods will become less rewarding, so we search for something new for a sustained dopamine release. Foods with an overload of sugars though hack our system and remain rewarding over time. Sugar, in the form of glucose, is the main fuel for our brain, so our brain makes sure we keep eating it. No matter how much sugar you eat and over which length of time, dopamine keeps releasing and the brain keeps associating sugar with something positive, even though your system becomes overloaded and can’t keep up with processing it. This chemical rush can lead to addiction and increased tolerance.
When you are addicted, the situation becomes worse. The brain stops releasing dopamine in response to sugar, but instead it’s released by the anticipation of the stimulant. You will need more and more sugar to get the dopamine spike and the sugar basically hijacks the neural pathways of the brain associated with dopamine, making eaters overly dependent of the sugar (www.cheatsheet.com/life/sugar-addiction-is-real-and-heres-how-it-happens.html/?a=viewall). This is actually associated with real physiological changes in the brain (philmaffetone.com/sugar-addictio/). Getting off sugar is not easy and leads to withdrawal and cravings, just like hard drugs (heroine, cocaine), morphine and alcohol (edition.cnn.com/2015/09/30/health/ending-sugar-addiction/).
Being addicted to sugar is bad. Diet high in sugar can cause a large number of different problems, such cravings, binge eating, weight gain, heart disease (www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1663), an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and elevated triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol levels. Other than this, high sugar intake has been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight, autoimmune diseases (e.g. arthritis, multiple sclerosis) and osteoporosis (www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1663).
Signs of sugar addiction
How can you recognize that you too are addicted to sugar? Here an overview of a few clear signs that you’re hooked on sugar.
1) You have sugar cravings
Even when you don’t really want to, you end up eating sugary foods. You know it’s not really a good idea to eat that candy bar, but you’re salivating and start rationalizing that it is a good idea to eat it and start making excuses to get your sugar bodyecology.com/articles/5-warning-signs-that-youre-a-sugar-addict. These cravings can be consistent for a certain moment in your day, for example during mid-afternoon or a few hours after your dinner. This can be a sign that you’re dependant on sugar to help boost your energy at those specific times of the day. Also, it might even be that you experience sugar cravings all day and that you spend a large portion of your day thinking about sugar. If you get intense urges to eat something sweet, you insist on drinking your coffee or tea with a lot of sugar or you drink soda all day long, these habits can be a sign of dependence on sugar (www.fitwatch.com/blog/signs-that-you-may-be-addicted-to-sugar).
2) You crave simple carbohydrates
Simple carbs are turned into sugar by the body really quickly and can feed your body’s addiction to sugar. Good example of this are cravings for white bread, croissants, pastries, pasta and white rice.
3) You lose control
If you’re a sugar addict, you’re probably bingeing on sugar at least several times a week. After eating so many cookies that you experience symptoms like headache, gas, bloating, fatigue, sleepiness or fuzzy thinking, you are probably experiencing a sugar hangover. You keep doing this, even when you know it will give you these negative symptoms afterwards. Apparently the short-term benefits of eating that cake or chocolate, is worth it. Often, sugar addicts have a (secret) stash of sugary foods, to binge on when alone.
4) You eat much more sugary foods than you’ve planned
You start with eating one candy and end up with finishing the whole bag. Once you’ve started and finished the first one, you end up thinking, this wasn’t enough. I need more. Afterwards, you have feelings of regret (www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21500/surprisingly-common-signs-youre-addicted-to-sugar.html).
5) You have a persistent sweet tooth
Most of us like sweets, but if yo have trouble turning them down or you’re willing to make a special trip to the store to satisfy your sweet tooth, an addiction might be present (http://bodyecology.com/articles/5-warning-signs-that-youre-a-sugar-addict)
6) Discomfort when cutting back
One of the clearest signs that you’re a sugar addict is that it can make you feel very uncomfortable when you try to cut back your sugar intake. You may experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, fatigue, headaches, irritability, anxiety and moodiness. This means that your body is craving a substance it is used to having (www.fitwatch.com/blog/signs-that-you-may-be-addicted-to-sugar).
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