Are you addicted to sugar?

Glass of CokeDo you find yourself trying to avoid sugary foods for most of the day but then end up bingeing on a king size candy bar or a 32 oz soda? Maybe you go a couple of days without eating sugar, but then you “treat” yourself to a big dessert or some donuts?  Perhaps you’ve managed to cut back on sugar for a while, but you’ve noticed that you’re drinking more beer or wine instead.

If any of these scenarios ring a bell, you might have symptoms of what could be legitimately termed a sugar “addiction” or “dependency.”

Also, if you went without sugar for a while and started to feel depressed, anxious, moody or sleepy, and were able to relieve these symptoms by eating sugary foods, this could indicate a serotonin disruption caused by bouts of excess sugar intake.

While the use of the term “addiction” in regards to food is somewhat controversial, recent studies with rats found that the bingeing behavior associated with drugs looks neurologically similar to that seen with bingeing on sugar.  Like recreational drugs, excess sugar intake can cause an increase in the release of dopamine, triggering the brain’s pleasure center.  The repeated flooding of dopamine results in a desensitization of dopamine receptors, creating a need for more sugar or some other dopamine activating stimulant.

Based on the correlation between increased refined sugar consumption and higher rates of obesity (and in light of studies on sugar addiction using rats), many researchers are starting to believe that obesity may be connected to food/sugar addiction.  Fructose in particular might be an especially significant cause of weight gain and “sugar dependence” as it’s extremely sweet and doesn’t provide the feeling of satiety that glucose and sucrose do.

If you think you might have an addiction to sugar (recognizing it is the first step!), the best thing to do is to start reducing your sugar consumption.  When you get a craving, eat a highly nutritious meal rich in protein, healthy fats, and some glucose instead.  Eating good food, getting sunshine, and exercising can all help balance the body’ dopamine and serotonin levels and promote an overall sense of wellness.

References: Sugar and Fat Have Noticeable Differences in Addictive-like Behavior, Evidence For Sugar Addiction

Originally posted 2013-05-24 23:21:47.

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