Sugar addiction is something that won’t get you imprisoned like hardcore drugs, but you will certainly end up in a healthcare facility if it’s not controlled. Sugar is the root cause of dangerous lifestyle illnesses like diabetes and autoimmune diseases, so it’s important we learn how to overcome sugar addiction.
In this article, I present the findings of several studies so you can follow the research and hopefully follow me on a ketogenic lifestyle devoid of sugar.
Many people make light of their predilection for tasty, sweet treats. Sure, they taste good, but so do many other food items that don’t seem to invoke such a continual, compulsive need to consume them. So, why are many people hooked on baked sweet cookies, soda, and other sugary foods?
How Sugar Affects Your Eating Behavior
Dr. Louis Aronne, a director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center in New York, said that eating sugar is much like ingesting cocaine. People who habitually have a high consumption of sweets were found to have a very strong urge to consume these foods and dealt with elevated moods immediately after eating them.
However, when they are deprived of these sugary foods, they can experience very strong negative responses consistent with withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Aronne also said that if a person consumes sugary foods in the morning, they will set up a bad pattern for the whole day. As they come down from their initial sugar high, they unconsciously crave more sugar-based food throughout the day.
This is the powerful effect of a sugar addiction.
Signs of Sugar Addiction
Not so sure if you have a sugar addiction or just a ‘sweet tooth’? Here are a few signs that you just may have a sugar addiction:
- crave salty food/carbs
- hide your sweet treats
- cranky, irritable
- spikes and dips in energy throughout the day
- crave sweets after every meal
Sugar Stimulates Your Brain Like Cocaine Does
Research led by a neuroscientist named Joseph Schroeder of Connecticut College showed that sugary foods stimulate a person’s brain exactly the same way that drugs such as morphine and cocaine do. This helps explain why so many people have a sugar addiction, even if they are aware of its adverse effects on health. This finding is part of the research that hopes to discover more about the link between food motivations and human behavior.
They chose Oreos in the said study because these cookies are highly palatable to humans and laboratory rats and because they have been heavily marketed in so many countries that are considered to have lower socioeconomic statuses.
Sugar as An Addictive Substance
A study of the highly addictive quality of high fructose corn syrup was led by Dr. Francesco Leri of the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. This study showed that consumption of high fructose corn syrup can cause behavioral reactions among laboratory rats which are similar to the effects of using addictive drugs.
In the same study, researchers showed that laboratory animals and humans have the same kind of vulnerability when it comes to developing a preference for high-sugar foods and for any other addictive substance. Dr. Leri said that this finding explains why people’s addiction to unhealthy foods has led to a global obesity epidemic. David Kessler, who used to be the head of the Food and Drug Administration, stated that sugar and cigarettes share the same addictive effect.
These products both contain highly pleasurable substances that will only provide momentary bliss. The effects of substances, including sugar, that provide a highly hedonic effect are so strong that they dominate thinking about immediate consumption.
How Sugar Affects Dopamine Production
Another study also showed that rats were found to ingest sugar in a manner that is similar to a human bingeing on sweet foods. This sugar binge stimulated the brain to produce dopamine before and after sugar consumption, and the effect was said to be similar to individuals taking heroin.
Experts also confirmed that high consumption of sugary foods can lead to changes in the level of production as well as the availability of dopamine in the brain’s receptors. This means that for a person to experience that same feeling of “high,” they would need to consume more sugar or more drugs the next time around – thus leading to a sugar addiction.
Different Sugars and Our Health
Research continues to show excessive sugar intake’s negative impacts on human health. The bottom line is that all added sugar, that is, any not naturally contained in whole foods, is unnecessary and ultimately not good for us. However, sugar is added to many of the processed foods we eat.
This raises questions about whether the sugar that occurs naturally in foods such as fruit differs from table sugar and other refined sugars. The answer is that all sugars are not the same regarding human health. It is becoming increasingly evident that we need to be aware of the kind of sugar we consume and how our body reacts to it once eaten.
Effects of Sugar from Fruits
Fruits provide some benefits because they are rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Sugar is also contained in fruit in the form of fructose and glucose. The fructose, glucose, and all the nutrient and fiber fractions ratios vary among fruit types. Simply put, all fruit is not the same.
The fiber content of fruit helps to determine what will happen to sugar once ingested and how quickly this fruit sugar can be broken down in the gastrointestinal tract. However, modern agricultural practice has developed most fruits to be much higher in sugar than they were meant to be. It really is best to avoid all high sugar-fruit simply.
Fruit Sugar and the Glycemic Index
Fruits can be classified based on their glycemic index. The American Diabetes Association says that fruits that are heavy in fiber have a low glycemic index. Examples of low glycemic index fruits include apples, peaches, berries, oranges, and other citrus fruits.
There are also fruits that have a higher glycemic index, such as watermelon, grapes, raisins, and ripe bananas. These kinds of fruits should be consumed in controlled portion sizes so they will not cause sugar spikes, especially in people diagnosed with diabetes.
If you’re on the ketogenic diet, this list tightens even more. I consume only berries and some citrus, such as lemons and limes. But everything in moderation. If my carb count is low for a day and I feel like indulging in a creamy keto smoothie with half a banana, I will. That’s why it is important to track your macros.
You do not have to totally avoid or reduce your consumption of fresh fruits to keep your blood sugar levels normal. Be mindful of their glycemic index, count your net carbs, and watch out for dried fruits, as their sugar levels are more concentrated due to their reduced volume.
Effects of Refined Sugar
We need first to recognize that all types of sugar are broken down by the body for use in several metabolic processes. However, the differences between sugar types become evident when the effects on the body following ingestion are monitored and measured.
Refined sugar very quickly metabolizes into fructose and glucose, causing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and insulin release. Refined sugar products will not only prevent you from experiencing that feeling of fullness; they affect hormones that make you feel even more hungry.
Therefore, you will find yourself craving more calorie-rich soda and cake even after already having enough.
The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners
Many people use artificial sweeteners, believing that these are healthier options than regular sugar. But will these artificial sweeteners serve as your gateway to a world filled with sweetness but without consequences?
Here are some of the common sugar substitutes and their known effects.
Aspartame is a substance that is present in many artificial sweeteners sold today. Despite a growing number of scientific studies that have shown that aspartame can cause several adverse effects on human health, consumers continue to use artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame.
Several studies have repeatedly demonstrated that aspartame can cause lymphoma, leukemia, and tumors.
These studies used laboratory rats, but researchers believe the results of its effects on animals can be correlated to human health sufficiently and that aspartame should be avoided. There is also evidence to prove that aspartame can worsen an individual’s insulin sensitivity. This is bad news to diabetics who were led to believe that artificial sweeteners can be their safe alternative to sugar.
A study conducted on severely obese people who were not regular consumers of artificial sweeteners resulted in higher blood sugar peaks after drinking sucralose. Researchers also found out that sucralose consumption causes insulin levels to increase by as much as 20%.
Splenda, which is a well-known brand of sucralose, was downgraded from being classified as “safe” to “caution” after an Italian study showed a significant link between sucralose consumption and the development of leukemia.
It is for this reason that researchers state that sucralose should not be consumed by pregnant mothers and children.
This prohibition must be observed until appropriate studies and significant results show that sucralose is safe and is not a cancer-causing substance, says Dr. Morando Soffritti of Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy. Unfortunately, the United States FDA had already approved using Splenda as a tabletop sweetener.
During the 1970s, saccharin was a subject of controversy as it was linked to bladder tumors in rats. However, in 2000, the FDA allowed it to be sold even without this warning label. The approval from the FDA was based on a 1977 study that did not show any significant link between saccharin and bladder tumors, claiming that laboratory rats had been fed with very high doses of saccharin.
However, in 2008, another study was conducted on the use of saccharin, and experts discovered that rats fed with saccharin gained more weight. There has also been speculation about the link between Alzheimer’s disease and saccharin consumption. Some researchers also claim that saccharin may not be safe for pregnant mothers because it may harm the fetus.
Make Your Own Decisions
Although the proclaimed charter of the FDA is to protect human health, its approvals are based on the science of the day. Many approved products have been subsequently revoked. Many health researchers also believe that approval of a product by the FDA is no guarantee of safety. Anyone concerned about their health should perform their own research.
Although excessive sugar consumption harms human health, substituting artificial sweeteners may be as bad or worse. At the end of the day, the human body is not designed to deal with an overload of sweeteners.
For our health’s sake, we would do far better to train our tastes to healthier food sources.
How to Overcome Sugar Addiction
Many people from countries all over the world have a sugar addiction without realizing it. For many, sweet treats have become a comfort food. Some people claim they have been genetically predisposed to crave sugar. The bottom line is that sugary foods are extremely detrimental to your health.
Beating sugar addiction will be tough
There is absolutely no doubt that limiting or giving up sugar intake will benefit your health. Sugar provides no nutrients but causes problems to your health. The only perceived gains are taste and satisfying a compulsive urge.
However, if your body is conditioned to high sugar intake (having a sugar addiction), you can expect to go through a period of withdrawal, and the symptoms can be painful and frustrating. This period can last from a couple of days to two weeks. You may experience headaches, agitation, and mood swings.
The result will be worth it, for your health’s sake, but it will require effort, especially in the beginning. If you are serious about stopping your sugar addiction, the following advice will prove useful.
Look for a Substitute
You may want to try some natural, herbal teas to satisfy your cravings. Unsweetened beverages are a great option to fill you up and rehydrate. Some satisfying choices include: green tea, blueberry tea, or peppermint tea. Dried fruits, almonds, raisins, or some trail mix can be another healthy snack option.
Go easy on the dried fruits, however, as they can be quite high in sugar content by weight and volume compared to the naturally hydrated version. It will take some active willpower; however, soon, you will be able to make better choices when the sweet cravings take over, and before you know it, you’ll have control over your sugar addiction.
Make Sweets Less Accessible
Don’t sabotage yourself. Stopping your sugar addiction will be difficult if your cupboards, fridge, and counters are laden with high-sugar snacks, candies, or chocolates. If you are at work, ensure that sweet treats can no longer be found near your workstation. For a quick fix, keep some sugar-free gum at your desk and in your car. Get the flavor without the sugar and the associated calories.
When you go shopping, avoid going down the junk food aisles. Read the labels on “health food bars”; these are often sugar bombs in disguise. Instead, keep your kitchen filled with fresh fruits and other healthy snacks you can easily grab whenever you crave something sweet.
Brush Your Teeth Right Away
Make a habit of brushing your teeth very soon after eating your meals. Some people often crave something sweet after they have finished their meals because they do not like the yucky aftertaste left in their mouths. If you make an effort to brush your teeth right away after eating, the minty taste of toothpaste will help stomp out the urge to consume something sweet.
Wait for Ten Minutes
Nutrition experts advise that sugar cravings may only last up to ten minutes. So, the next time you feel the urge to look for something sweet, wait for ten minutes first and allow the craving to subside. This habit will make it easier for you to attain self-discipline and gain better control over your sweet cravings. Find something productive or creative to do while you wait so you are not focused on your cravings.
If you need an incentive to convince you to overcome your addiction to sugar, here are some valid reasons why you should call it quits:
- Sugar is not healthy in any way
Besides having zero nutritional value, it is something that will only deprive you of the nutrients needed by your mind and body in order to function well. What’s more, when sugar is processed inside your body, it will strip away Calcium and other mineral resources while depleting your healthy intestinal flora.
- Sugar makes you anxious
Eating more foods that contain sugar can make you more vulnerable to the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Consuming these sugary foods will increase insulin production, and the sugar/slump cycle can elevate adrenalin levels.
- Sugar destroys your pancreas
Studies reveal that sugar will compromise the ability of your pancreas to function well. When this occurs, you can find yourself becoming susceptible to kidney problems, diabetes, and heart problems.
- Sugar ruins your teeth
The more you eat foods containing sugar, the more you increase bacteria build-up inside your mouth, contributing to enamel erosion.
Although sweet foods are often used as rewards, remember that this will never reward your health. If you want to live a longer and healthier life, crush your sugar addiction.
After all, suffering an amputation due to diabetic complications is not such a sweet thought, isn’t it?