THE NEW ADDICTION

Sugar Addiction

Did you know that you are probably consuming more sugar per day than the daily recommended amounts? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that an adult living on a standard 2000-calorie diet should consume about 25g of sugar per day. WHO links the addictive properties of sugar to those of cocaine although the effects are far diminished. It can create a spark of energy and a short-term high in the body, however, long-term health effects like obesity and type 2 diabetes are a risk of sugar overindulgence. WHO research further demonstrates that the effects of sugar addiction, withdrawal, and relapse are similar to those of drug abuse.

From cupcakes to pints of ice cream to iced coffee, Sugar is found in many foods and it is hardly possible to avoid it. Emotional or psychological dependence on sugary food and drinks, also known as sugar addiction, is a cause for concern among health specialists. Similar to other compulsions or behavioral addictions, sugar addiction is a special risk for people with low moods, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, people who are constantly tired may reach for carbohydrate-rich foods for a boost of energy. 

Sugar consumption could encourage the release of endorphins in the body and combines with other chemicals in the body, resulting in a surge of energy. Once someone mentally connects sugar with help providing energy, they may become dependent on it. People may begin to crave sugar to balance irritability, emotional lows, and other conditions. At this point, there is often little control over dietary habits, and sugar addiction starts developing.

Unlike many other substance use disorders or behavioral compulsions, sugar addiction is often easy to spot. The clearest sign of sugar addiction is craving for and consuming sugary foods or drinks. The individual may constantly eat to combat boredom, and become hyper and crash. They may even talk about sugar cravings after stressful or irritating life experiences. People may find sugar’s ability to provide instant energy, and a quick fix during a long and stressful day. During a breakup or other emotional stress situation, other people often turn to chocolate or pints of ice cream to comfort themselves, such habits can easily lead to addiction. The side effects can damage self-esteem, and cause feelings of helplessness, and low self-worth, this in turn leads to more sugar consumption leading to more addiction. It is critical to remember that foods, especially sugar, are a short-term fix for emotional conditions. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression and using food as a crutch, consider therapy or rehab.

There is a direct relationship between anxiety and sugar cravings. An eating disorder like binge eating or anorexia occurs for underlying reasons. Oftentimes, the person suffering from such disorders is struggling for psychological and emotional reasons. Stress eating is a common example of the relationship between eating disorders and anxiety, and sugar consumption is commonly associated with stress eating. Anxiety will trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses appetite in some. When sugar addiction combines with eating to soothe anxiety, the result is typically weight gain. Despite sugar initially boosting serotonin levels in the brain sugar can worsen anxiety as sugar lows create feelings of fatigue and depression.

Surprisingly there’s a link between children of parents who abuse alcohol and sugar addiction. A recent study confirmed dopamine receptors in the brain light up when sugar is consumed, similar to the receptors lighting up in the brain of someone who abuses alcohol. This can encourage people who struggle with sweets to develop alcoholism. Alcohol-dependent individuals have a higher preference for sweets and experience sugar cravings and sugar withdrawals. The genes in parents who abuse alcohol, as well as their preference for sugar, can be passed down to their children.

Many people who eliminate sugar from their diet find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms of irritability, fogginess, moodiness, and low energy. Tragically many choose to go back to eating processed sugary foods. A much better alternative is to do away with sweets and replace them with natural health options to regain control. 

Change begins with realizing that there is a problem with one’s sugar consumption. Modifying one’s diet and practicing self-control can help, but going cold turkey is not ideal.

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