What is Sugar Addiction and what causes it?

Do you remember cake cutting on your birthday? Or a lover giving you chocolate on Valentine’s Day? In Indian households, sweets are distributed to celebrate joyful occasions like a good result in school or a promotion perhaps.

You eat all these sugar-filled desserts without even a single thought because it seems pretty normal. But let me tell you that some of you may actually have fallen prone to an addiction ….Yes, you heard it right… Some of you may be addicted to sugar? Uncommon, Right?

Well not so much.

Do you know that researchers in America want sugar to be classified as a drug? A citizen petition asking the FDA to “amend the Drug Schedules to include added sugar to either Schedule I or Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act” was recently received by the agency.

The problem of sugar addiction is a cause of grave concern for health officials in America as more than 75 percent of American citizens eat excessive sugar.

But what exactly is sugar addiction ? Before we talk about this, let us first talk about some basics.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a substance extracted from plants like sugarcane and sugar beet which is then refined into white crystalline powder. Refined sugar is nothing more than monosaccharide and disaccharide carbs, which give your mouth a sweet flavour. Anything on the ingredient label ending with the suffix –ose like Sucrose, Fructose, Lactose, etc, is sugar.

Today, sugar can be found EVERYWHERE. Like, literally everywhere. It is in all the obvious places like cakes, candies, sodas, and cookies but also in some places where you will least expect to find it, like tomato ketchup, peanut butter, yogurt, salads, crackers, etc.

In such a scenario, it becomes inevitable to consume nothing but a little amount of sugar every day which is also not harmful, to say the least.  But then how one gets a sugar addiction?

According to Dr. Alan Greene, who is an expert in children’s health and wellness expert, “Even though we use the word ‘addiction’ very lightly but in medicine, we use it to describe a very tragic situation where someone’s brain chemistry has been altered to compel them to repeat a substance or activity despite harmful consequences.

Emotional or psychological dependency on sugary foods and drinks and consuming them in excessive amounts can be termed as sugar addiction.

Sugar addiction is considered to be as lethal, if not more, than addiction to street drugs like cocaine or heroin. This is because our brain circuit considers these sugary desserts as a reward. Remember your father promising you a chocolate if you receives the highest grade in your class?

When we eat sugar, then the receptors spread all over our tongue send signals to our brain to release dopamine.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a part of the reward system of our brain. This system is designed from an evolutionary standpoint to seek and perform activities that release high levels of dopamine like – eating, drinking, and reproducing.  Recent research conducted at Connecticut College on rats has shown that Oreo cookies activate more neurons in the pleasure centre of the rat’s brain than cocaine.

You receive a pleasurable “high” that makes you want to repeat a given behavior which results in an excessive release of dopamine. This is what can be termed as sugar addiction .

As you continue to engage in that behaviour, your brain adapts and releases less dopamine. Repeating the behaviour more frequently and in larger doses is the only way to achieve the same “high” as previously. Substance abuse is what this is. Americans ranked sugar higher than marijuana on the list of dangerous substances compiled by the Wall Street Journal.

The founder of Healthy Simple Life, Cassie Bjork, RD, LD, claims that sugar might be even more addictive than cocaine.

According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a nutrition, diet, and health expert and the author of Hormone Balance, The Magnesium Miracle, and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health, “After a sugar binge, your blood sugar will fall because insulin pushes that sugar into the cells to prevent sugar damage.” “That drop results in low blood sugar and increased appetites.”

The amount of dopamine released by sugar is very less and that is why many people are not able to say when offered a piece of cake but a little self-control never hurts anybody. Be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat.

The feel-good after eating an ice cream tub will prove harmful in the long run and even lead to sugar addiction in future.

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