Oh, How Sweet it Is! Is it?
Do you have a “sweet tooth” Many people are drawn to sweet things for reasons that can be hard to understand?
Sweetness is one of the first tastes we can register on our infant’s tongues. Sweetness releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. Let’s face it who doesn’t want to feel good? But with the sweet temptation of sugary food comes the downside.
Recent studies trying to account for the obesity epidemic that has arisen in the past 40 years despite the emphasis on a low-fat diet are now turning more and more to looking at sugar and high-carbohydrate foods as the culprit in weight gain, not the consumption of dietary fat. What they have found has shocked them.
Is Sugar More Addictive Than Crack Cocaine?
The original research back in August 2007 that sparked the comparison between sugar being more addictive than crack cocaine was published in the journal PLOS One, a publication of the non-profit Public Library of Science.
In the study, 94% of rats who were allowed to choose between sugar water and cocaine chose the sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for the cocaine, a ‘reward’ system which made them crave the sugar, even more, leading to addiction, and difficulty when sugar was withdrawn.
Another shocking finding of the study was a cross-tolerance and a cross-dependency between sugars and addictive drugs. For example, lab animals with a long history of sugar consumption actually became tolerant or desensitized to the pain-relieving effects of the potent and addictive painkiller morphine. When you look at the obesity problem and the opioid drug addiction problem side by side you see the resemblance? Do you see the relationship? Two “feel good” highly addictive substances with deadly consequences.
The more sugar we get, the more we want, leading to a vicious cycle of craving and satisfaction, back to craving when the ‘fix’ wears off. The highs and lows of blood sugar can lead to metabolic syndrome, characterized in part by high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high triglycerides (a form of cholesterol), insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and Type 2 diabetes. These conditions have now been found in the US in children as young as 18 months, even though they are normally associated with people over 40.
Sugar increases your insulin levels, insulin is your “fat fertilizer” and can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
- Premature aging
“Stress Eating” and the Sugar Link
Another key study points to the role of stress in our diet. In the journal Minerva endocrinological, a study published in September 2013 titled, “Stress and eating behaviors,” has shown that not all obesity is the same, but rather, can be stress-driven, with stress affecting food choices, in particular, high sugar ones, which may possess addictive qualities.
Stress is a major factor in the development of addiction and relapse when a person is trying to recover from it. Stress may also contribute to an increased risk for obesity and other metabolic diseases. Uncontrollable stress changes eating patterns, and the tendency to consume more sweets. Over time, this could lead to changes in the brain and behavior, resulting in increasingly compulsive behavior, in which the person ‘just can’t seem to help themselves.’
The chemical changes appear to center on the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands and affect glucose metabolism (blood sugar), insulin sensitivity, and other appetite-related hormones and chemicals. These changes can even alter the wiring in the brain, with dopamine becoming connected to the stress and motivation circuits in the brain. This can result in an increase in cravings for sweets, a greater reward mentality, and an increase in weight, which leads to more cravings, stress, and need for reward. The study shows that those with a sugar addiction are five times more likely to ‘binge eat’ than those who don’t.
Why is Sugar so Addictive in People?
There are some reasons why sugar can be so addictive to humans. The first is that sugar is tasty and can make even sour foods more palatable. We discover sweetness as infants when we are fed applesauce and other fruits or given juice.
Unless the juice is 100% natural, it will often contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which as the name suggests, is high in sugar (fructose, that is, fruit sugar). HFCS can trigger bloating, belly fat and weight gain. It can also trigger cravings for even more sweet things.
Researchers speculate that the sweet receptors, that is, two protein receptors located on the tongue, which evolved in early humans, have not adapted to the high sugar lifestyle of the modern world. The ‘eat like a caveman’ focus of the Paleo diet, which is low in carbohydrates, might be onto something.
Eating anything sweet will release the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, forging a link between eating sugary foods and enhanced mood and well-being, however temporary before the sugar high becomes a sugar low. The lows can leave you feeling depressed, listless and ‘down,’ so a person will give themselves a ‘pick-me-up,’ usually in the form of a sweet treat.
Modern diets are much higher in sugar, HFCS, and foods that might seem to be healthy forms of sugar, such as honey, than our ancestors. The abnormally high stimulation of our tongue receptors due to our sugar-rich diets generates excessive reward signals in the brain. These excessive messages have the potential to override normal self-control mechanisms, and thus lead to overeating of sugar and from there to addiction.
Low fat, but high sugar
The low-fat diet craze and the introduction of artificial sweeteners for commercial use in the last few decades have resulted in unprecedented levels of obesity in the US and many countries in the world that adopt a Westernized diet high in what can be termed junk food.
If you remove the fat from food, you need to replace it with something that will maintain its flavor. Added sugar, artificial sweeteners and ‘flavorings’ have been added due to the focus on a low-fat diet.
Another key reason for sugar addiction, or carbohydrate addiction, as the Hellers, also proponents of the low-carb lifestyle, have termed it, is the reward mentality. Parents would bribe us with dessert if we ate all our food. We would get a sweet treat if we were ‘good’. No
birthday seems complete without a cake, or cupcakes, to the point where many schools in the US started to ban them, and birthday celebrations in general, over alarm at the growing rate of obesity amongst young people, currently around 33%.
The end of year holidays, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, features sweet foods and dessert heavily, from candy and desserts too sweet potato casserole, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and other high-carb foods. Americans take the best of nature’s bounty and douse it in HFCS, white sugar or brown sugar. Holidays are supposed to be a happy time, so these special foods are equated with feeling good and rewards. This can lead to a cycle of addiction, in more ways than one. Ever wonder why you are hungry again only a couple of short hours after you’ve stuffed yourself with a good meal? It’s probably the carbs.
For carb addicts, however, it is not just in relation to what you have just eaten, but possibly as many as your 4 previous meals, so that the more sugar you eat, the more insulin you produce. If you keep on pumping out a lot of insulin, sooner or later you will develop insulin related disorders, such as insulin resistance, and eventually, Type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes is increasingly common amongst children, compared with the autoimmune Type 1 diabetes, and this seems to indicate that there is something seriously out of balance with our diets and it needs to be addressed. That imbalance is most likely the high amount of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sugar substitutes being put into everything from cereal to salad dressing.
Don’t Be Fooled By Sugar Substitutes
Don’t Let the Lable Fool You!
Sugar by another name…let’s take a look:
- Barley Malt Extract
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Corn Sugar
- Corn Sweetener
- Corn Syrup, or Corn Syrup Solids
- Crystalline Fructose
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Fruit Juice Concentrate
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert Sugar (golden syrup)
- Malt syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Raw Sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Sucrose Sorghum Syrup
- Syrup (golden syrup, dark syrup, light syrup)
- Turbinado Sugar
Top 10 Reasons To Drop Sugar From Your Diet
- Sugar Is Linked To Depression
- Sugar Is Linked To Obesity
- Sugar Is Linked To High Blood Pressure
- Sugar Is Increases Your Risk Of Heart Attack
- Sugar Is Addictive
- Sugar Is Linked To Fatty Liver Disease
- Sugar Is Linked To Diabetes
- Sugar Could Cause Cancer
- Sugar Rots Your Teeth
- You’ll Feel Less Full and more Hungry
The Best Sugar Replacements
• Honey – Raw (it will crystallize if it gets cold or sits too long)
• Maple Syrup
• Monk Fruit
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