What is sugar addiction?
A little sugar isn’t harmful for most people, but unfortunately, a little sugar isn’t what is consumed by most individuals. The majority of people eat more sugar than is recommended and having too much can impact one’s health negatively.
Sugar fuels our brains and is oftentimes seen as a reward1https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00545/full. This makes our brains want more sugar and people begin to crave it. The more sugar you eat, the more your brain believes you are rewarding it. This is a habit that is difficult to break and can lead to addiction.
Just like consuming too much alcohol or using drugs, sugar misuse can lead to addiction that affects health and well-being. Although some people scoff at sugar being addictive, the fact that over 70 million Americans are obese leads many nutrition experts to consider sugar to be one of the biggest addiction problems today.
Research on Americans and sugar consumption has found that three-quarters of the country eat too much of the sweet powder. Many of these people would be classed as having an addiction to sugar. Sugar comes in many of the foods that are eaten today. From donuts to iced coffee to soda, sugar is all around us. For the most part, sugar can be difficult to avoid.
How do you become addicted to sugar?
Sugar offers a short-term high, much like a drug, and provides a brief boost of energy. Dopamine is released when sugar is consumed causing individuals to find enjoyment eating foods containing the substance.
While the high produced by sugar is short-term, the physical effects to one’s body are long lasting. Diabetes and obesity are two of the life altering effects produced by sugar. Both can be harmful to our overall health resulting in disease and premature death.
People that experience stress, mood swings, and anxiety are at risk of sugar addiction. Due to the compulsion that is produced by eating or needing sugar, individuals can find themselves seeking out sugar regularly throughout the day. Sugar addiction is a behavioral addiction2https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938414006167 that changes the way we think and act.
What are the signs of sugar addiction?
It is difficult to hide a sugar addiction. While drug and alcohol abuse can be hidden from plain sight, the same cannot be said for sugar consumption. Why is it difficult to hide sugar addiction? The simplest reason it is difficult to hide is the weight gained by those who consume sugary foods and drinks.
Individuals who consume large amounts of sugary substances are often overweight. You may also see individuals consuming high levels of sugar-filled food and drink with your own eyes. They often believe there is nothing wrong with eating these items, so do not hide it from others.
In addition, individuals may constantly consume food due a number of reasons including boredom or to feel awake. Post-sugar consumption can lead them to feeling a crash. When a person is addicted to sugar, they may reach for sugar-filled foods to improve their irritability, raise low emotional levels, or improve their moods. The more sugar a person consumes to correct these problems, the more likely they are to become addicted.
Is sugar bad for me?
Sugar is not bad for you if eaten in moderation. It is a natural substance that can deliver few – if any – ill-effects if eaten responsibly. Unfortunately, it is a substance that isn’t eaten very responsibly nowadays. When eaten in large amounts, it leads to weight gain due to the number of calories contained in sugary foods. Weight gain then turns into obesity and diabetes can develop. Even if diabetes doesn’t result from weight gain, cardiac issues can develop and the strain on the body’s joints can cause life-long damage.
The vast majority of sugar that is consumed by people comes from soft drinks, food preservatives, and table sugar. However, other items that are often consumed also contain it. Sports drinks, fruit juice, cookies, cakes, chocolate, and even bread all contain various amounts of sugar that can add to addiction and weight gain.
Sugar addiction can be stopped by modifying your diet. If you realize you are addicted to sugar then using self-control to avoid sugary foods is a way to eliminate a dependency on it. However, cutting off sugar consumption cold turkey can be tough, especially if you experience a co-occurring mental health disorder. Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders can find help from health practitioners and kick their sugar addiction for good.
McNamara JM, Houston AI, Higginson AD. Costs of foraging predispose animals to obesity-related mortality when food is constantly abundant. PLoS ONE (2015) 10:e0141811. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141811
Williamson DA. Fifty years of behavioral/lifestyle interventions for overweight and obesity: where have we been and where are we going? Obesity (2017) 25:1867–75. doi: 10.1002/oby.21914