Mention the term sugar addiction to some people and they’ll roll their eyes, laugh and think you sound a little crazy. Addicted to sugar? No way. Or, if you could be addicted to it, the worst thing it could cause would be weight gain and tooth decay, right? Just get some willpower and get over it. But the reality isn’t so funny. Sugar addiction is, in fact, a growing problem and once which results in things much worse than simply a few cavities or a couple of extra pounds.
When we eat sugar it stimulates the pleasure centre of the brain and also causes the body to release dopamine – a natural feel-good chemical. This is the same basic mechanism which enables all addictions, from sugar to heroin. The body produces feel-good chemicals in response to them and we, in turn, continue to consume more and more of it in order to maintain that feeling. Unfortunately, sugar, like many other addictive agents, causes the body to build up a bit of a tolerance so soon we find that we need to consume more and more just to get a fraction of that original good feeling.
When people become addicted to sugar it can have a massive impact on several areas of their life. Initially the affects will be physical as the sugar begins to cause the addict to gain weight and possibly break out in spots or experience skin irritations due to a poor diet. A sugar addiction can also effect a person’s behaviour – causing them to be shaky, irritable or even weak when they don’t get the sugar they need. In fact, a research team at Princeton University studied the effects of sugar on the brains of rats and found that the rats exhibited all the same effects of heroin addiction.
For many addicts, giving up sugar is incredibly difficult. Not only is sugar in and of itself very addictive it’s also legal and seems to be everywhere. The World Health Organization recommends that added sugar intake should be limited to no more than 10% of a person’s daily intake but sugar is found in even seemingly innocent foods. When an addict or anyone concerned about their sugar intake wants to limit it, they need to start reading nutrition labels on everything more closely and being vigilant to ensure that they are eating foods which are not processed. This can make the fight to break a sugar addiction incredibly hard.
Sugar is certainly no boogeyman and can be enjoyed in small quantities. The problem arises when a person begins to overeat sugar or to eat it on a regular basis which causes their body to rely on it physically. As the person eats more, they feel temporarily better but are actually compounding their problems. Sugar addiction can lead to serious illnesses such as diabetes as well as affecting a person’s emotional health. Understanding what sugar addiction is and recognizing it as a problem may be the first steps in true recovery for sugar addicts everywhere.