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Are You Addicted To Sugar?

There are plenty of things you can be “addicted to” in the popular vernacular, such as being “addicted” to such ass continuing binging over watching Narcos on Netflix, or playing League of Legends or World of Warcraft obsessively on your video console, and then there are drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine that have a substantial effect on your body. But what about sugar. Is sugar an addiction?

Well, surprisingly, many scientists, such as those in a 2013 Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut that even sugary foods as innocuous as Oreos may be as addictive as ingesting cocaine.

The secret to the addiction to sugar is that when we eat it, opioids and dopamine, which are responsible for the brain’s reward system are triggered when ingesting sugar, and at least in the Connecticut College study on rats, researchers showed that when the rats ate Oreos (and just like humans, they favored the white, sugary filling,) more neurons were even activated in the brains of the lab rats than when given cocaine as an alternative.

Meanwhile, in a 2008 Princeton Study, researchers were able to identify clear withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, binging, and withdrawal, again in rats. 

But don’t make a vow to totally give up sugar just yet. According to Margaret Westwater, a researcher at Cambridge University, earlier conclusions about rats being addicted to sugar were flawed. 

Westwater says that while sugar does activate the pleasure centers in the brain, that

the evidence of truly addictive behavior is not there and in fact, a craving for sugar is hardwired into our brain to help us survive. 

In short, Westwater says that sugar is unfairly being demonized, and is more akin to the fact that you may be hungry than it is that you are addicted.

Clearly, Westwater is not saying that eating tons of simple sugars is a health food, but she cautions that labeling sugar as addictive is not really doing a service to the general public. 

 So how much sugar should you eat? 

According to Healthline, the average American takes in around 306 calories per day via sugar, whereas organizations such as the American Heart Association suggest that men should ingest 150 calories or less in calories and women should limit total sugar calories to around 100 calories per day.

But it’s the excess calories, not that they come from sugar, which is important.

Healthline also points out that it is important to recognize in one’s diet the difference between natural sugars and added sugars.

Fruit, for example, is loaded with natural sugars, but because there are tons of nutrition in fruit, you need not generally limit the amount of fruit you eat.

However, it’s the added sugars in sodas, candy, baked goods, and even diet foods that tend to skip the fat but load up on calories, that are the cause of many problems.

Such foods have no fiber in them, and thus they tend to go straight to the bloodstream when eaten.

In fact, some dieticians divide the amount of sugar that you eat into these two categories and say the 150 calories for men and 100 calories for women mostly refer to the excess added calories.

But don’t assume you can just go cold turkey with the sugar in your diet. Although sugar is not necessarily addictive according to Dr. Westwater, when we are hungry, the body has a use for these calories to help support brain function and provides energy to your muscles.

However, it is in selecting the wrong “enhanced calories” food that we go wrong.

If you eat plenty of whole foods and limit the needless sugars, as well as learn to read labels for your food, you will go a long way. 

Reading food labels is important because many food manufacturers have clever ways of labeling sugars such as fructose, dextrose, maltose, and perhaps the most common one, high fructose corn syrup.

Learn to eat your sugars responsibly and then you needn’t worry about the occasional

binging of a donut or some ice cream. 

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