Do you have a sweet tooth? Don’t brush it aside. This might be a deeper problem than you think. Sugar addiction is a very real thing, and most people don’t realize they have it, neither do they understand the damage it wrecks on their bodies.
Signs you may have a sugar habit
- Do you often have spontaneous and intense cravings for something sweet?
- Do you insist on having your daily fix of Coke, soda, or other sugary drinks?
- Do you have trouble saying no to desserts?
- Do you go out of your way to satisfy your sweet tooth?
- Do you have a stash of sugary foods, and do you binge on them when you’re alone?
- Do you feel irritable or uncomfortable when you don’t get to eat sweet foods?
If you have said yes to some or all of the questions above, you most likely struggle with a sugar addiction.
The science behind sugar addiction
Most people understand that sugar is bad for them yet they cannot stop themselves from reaching out and eating large quantities of it anyway. Why?
Scientists have discovered that sugar literally triggers brain pathway activities in the same way that cocaine and heroine does. Eating sugar triggers dopamine secretion in the reward center of the brain. A diet with excess sugar will flood the brain with reward signals, which, over time, will override self-control and lead to addiction. In short, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you will WANT to eat. And when you do try to stop, you experience withdrawal symptoms in the same (albeit less intense) ways a drug addict does.
There is also a metabolic component to sugar addiction. When we reach out for that delicious chocolate bar, what happens is a crazy spike in glucose levels in the bloodstream. What follows is a pleasant sugar “high”. The body then has to release insulin to strive to bring blood sugar levels back to normal. A “crash” results, causing irritability and cravings for more sugar. The cycle goes on and on, making it difficult to stop.
Why is sugar dangerous?
There are a whole host of health complications that will result from an excessive consumption of sugar but for the sake of this article I will hone in on 3.
- Fat Gain
It is far too easy to exceed your recommended daily calorie intake when sugar-laden foods/drinks are a constant part of your diet. Added sugars are empty calories. They contain a whole bunch of calories but no added nutrients. When eating empty calories, you tend to overeat because you don’t feel satisfied. A tiny Mars bar contains 243 calories. A large cup of Coke contains 271 calories. Yet, it far too easy to mindlessly down cup after cup or snack endlessly on chocolate – because it just doesn’t make you feel full.
Sugar consumption has also been linked to an increase in visceral fat around the midsection. That’s right, sugar gives you a belly. If you want a flat tummy, cut out the sugar.
- Syndrome X
Excessive consumption of sugar is linked to insulin resistance, also called “metabolic syndrome” or “syndrome X”. When this happens, body cells become immune to the effect of insulin, and glucose levels in the blood build up. Insulin resistant individuals stand at a high risk for metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension.. even cancer. Skipping out on that candy bar is a much lower price to pay than having to deal with painful and chronic disease later on.
The spike in insulin following high sugar consumption triggers sebum production and clogging of follicles in the oil glands of the skin. Sugar also promotes inflammation in the body. What happens inevitably are breakouts. I used to struggle with horrible acne and eczema. When I cut down on sugar in my diet, my skin improved drastically.
These are just 3 of the countless reasons why excessive sugar is so harmful. So what does one do? Stay tuned for Part 2, where I talk about how to recognize and eliminate unnecessary sugar from your diet.