Sugar: Routine Craving Or Actual Addiction?

Sugar

Ask any doctor, dietitian or nutritionist and they’ll all say excess sugar intake is unhealthy for us, as millions of people coping with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more already know all too well.

If that wasn’t bad enough, most of these same experts agree that not only is sugar tempting, it may be downright addictive. And unlike drugs or cigarettes that are generally confined to the shadows, sugar is of course everywhere and therefore not only harder to avoid but harder to resist.

Naughty Craving Or Genuine Addiction?

The case for sugar addiction is in great part based on the release of opioids and dopamine when sugar is consumed, with dopamine being a neurotransmitter associated with our “reward circuit” and, in turn, addictive behavior. More specifically, the release of dopamine can produce a pleasurable “high” that we want to enjoy over and over again.

Unfortunately, our brains make the necessary adjustments over time and therefore release less dopamine, leading us to indulge the behavior in question more frequently and in growing amounts – the very definition of substance abuse.

According to Dr. Alan Greene in an article run on the Healthline site a couple of years back, “Addiction is a strong word. In medicine we use ‘addiction’ to describe a tragic situation where someone’s brain chemistry has been altered to compel them to repeat a substance or activity despite harmful consequences. This is very different than the casual use of ‘addiction’ (‘I’m addicted to ‘Game of Thrones!’), {but} I’m serious when I say that evidence is mounting that too much added sugar could lead to true addiction.”

Adds Cassie Bjork, R.D., L.D., and founder of Healthy Simple Life in the same Healthline article, “Research shows that sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine. Sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain and affects the reward center, which leads to compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences like weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, and more. Studies suggest that every time we eat sweets we are reinforcing those neuropathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug.” 

The Not-so-Sweet Truth About Sugar

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American consumes more than 130 pounds of sugar annually despite the World Health Organization advising us to reduce our intake of “free sugars” to less than 10% of our daily calories. No wonder ours is a nation plagued by obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and, quite likely, sugar addiction.

 Especially troubling is that fact that sugar isn’t only found in such obvious indulgences as cakes, ice cream or doughnuts. It’s also right there – sometimes obvious but sometimes well-disguised – in such seemingly healthier items as tea, salad dressing, granola bars and even fat-free yogurt. As a result, even those of us who don’t normally have addictive personalities may find sugar cravings creeping up on us like some terrifying monster in a late-night horror movie.

 Data from experiments and controlled studies show that our brains respond to sugar much in the same way as they respond to drugs of abuse,” says research neuroscientist Nicole Avena, assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and author of “Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar) in a story published by US News & World Report.

 “Sugar hijacks the brain, in a sense. It makes you feel great, then the come-down makes you feel terrible,” Avena says. Sugar crash, anyone? “This cycle leads to tolerance and needing more sugar to get the same reward or to taste something as being sweet.”

 Indeed, one of the surest ways to find yourself facing a possible sugar addiction is to start relying on sugar to improve your mood or reduce your stress. Quite simply, as soon as we start thinking of sugar as a go-to form of instant emotional and physical relief (i.e. pigging out on ice cream or cookies after a break-up), we’re giving it the power of alcohol or drugs – both of course classic sources of addiction.

 Escaping The Sugar Cycle

Tempting as sugar is, having sugar cravings is normal and hardly means you’re ready for an intervention or a 12-step recovery program. After all, sugar gives up energy – it’s an easily digestible carb that quickly peps us up when we’re feeling fatigued, sleep-deprived or just plain hungry. Life is full of choices and there are more ways than ever to balance our diet with less sugary and even sugar-free substitutes.

To help control your sugar cravings, first identify the leading sources of added sugar in your diet, then make sure to check the labels of the foods you buy for sugar and any of its “aliases” such as anhydrous dextrose, cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, and malt syrup.

Second, once you know where the bulk of your sugar intake is coming from, start phasing out those foods and drinks and substituting them with no-sugar-added or sugar-free alternatives.

Happily, as you adjust to a lower-sugar diet, you’ll find that resisting sugar becomes easier and that foods can taste just as sweet without it.

According to Alex Caspero, M.A., R.D., a health coach and founder of Delish Knowledge says in the aforementioned Healthline article, “The problem is that we aren't meant to enjoy sugars in such concentrated amounts. In nature, sugar is found surrounded by fiber, in sugar cane and fruits. It naturally comes in a container that produces a shorter blood sugar response and aids in fullness. Today’s sugars are refined and concentrated. The good news is that we can adapt our taste buds to accept less sugar. Reducing sugar, especially concentrated sugars, not only limits the amount of sugars ingested but also makes less sweet foods seem sweeter.”

How Multiforce Can Keep Your System In Balance

Whether you’ve conquered or surrendered to your sugar cravings, there’s no safer and more reliable way to maintain a healthy pH balance than all-natural, mineral-rich Multiforce. Featuring a proprietary blend of such essential minerals as calcium, magnesium and potassium, Multiforce helps your system maintain an optimal balance between acid and alkaline – a balance that can help you manage health ramifications associated with the excess sugar and acid commonly found in American diets.

The bottom line: to avoid falling prey to sugar addiction, eat the right foods, drink the right beverages and take Multiforce every day. Just remember – nothing is as addictive as being healthy!

 


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