Sugar May be as Addicting as Street Drugs!
‘Tis the holiday season and the sugary desserts are a plenty! Holiday parties, school parties, and family gatherings all filled with sugar. However, it’s not just during the holidays that we are on sugar overload.
We reward children with it over the holidays or for a job well done in school. We reward ourselves with it after a particularly stressful day or to celebrate a birthday or a special success.
We add sugar to our coffee, bake it into our favorite treats, and spoon it over our breakfast. We love the sweet stuff. But are we addicted to it?
There’s an increasing body of research that tells us excess sugar could be as addictive as some street drugs and have similar effects on the brain. Eating sugar releases opioids and dopamine in our bodies. This is the link between added sugar and addictive behavior.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key part trusted source of the “reward circuit” associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a pleasurable “high” that you are inclined to re-experience, and so repeat the behavior.
As you repeat that behavior more and more, your brain adjusts to release less dopamine. The only way to feel the same “high” as before is to repeat the behavior in increasing amounts and frequency. This is known as substance misuse. Every time we eat sweets, we are reinforcing those neuropathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug.
In nature, sugar is found surrounded by fiber, in sugar cane and fruits. It naturally comes in a container that produces a shorter blood sugar response and aids in fullness. Today’s sugars are refined and concentrated.
The good news is that we can adapt our taste buds to accept less sugar. Reducing sugar, especially concentrated sugars, not only limits the amount of sugars ingested, but also makes less sweet foods seem sweeter.
The key to a happy and healthy body is giving your body what it needs. Replacing processed sugars with more healthful natural sources to fill and replace physical cravings is the first step, along with finding ways to reduce our emotional triggers.
It may not be easy at first to kick the sugar habit, but with time and effort we can do it! Our bodies are counting on us!