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Sugar Addiction: Causes, Signs, And Treatment
After a particularly long day, our hands tend to wander towards sugary treats. We enjoy the way our teeth sink into a piece of chocolate as well as how sweet it tastes. The high that comes after consuming such a sugary treat often makes us crave for some more. Before we know it, we’ve gone through a whole bag of chocolate without even realizing it.
Have you ever wondered why? If you tend to find yourself dependent on foods and drinks that have high sugar content, then you are addicted to sugar. The term normally used is sugar addiction, which describes an individual’s psychological reliance on sugar.
In this post, we will explore everything there is to know about sugar addiction. We will start by looking at what causes it, before moving on to the signs and symptoms that indicate that someone might be addicted to sugar.
What Is Sugar Addiction?
Sugar addiction can be defined as a condition where the body continuously and uncontrollably desires something sweet. If you’re wondering how our bodies can get so attached to sugar, the answer lies in two factors: dopamine and opiates.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter commonly referred to as a happy hormone, is usually released in high amounts after consuming sugar. An increased release of dopamine causes a high that can be addictive. The more you continue consuming sugary foods and drinks, the more your body gets used to releasing high amounts of dopamine.
Therefore, the brain will be unable to release high amounts of dopamine without the help of sugar. In other words, the only way to encourage the brain to produce high amounts of dopamine is by consuming sugar. So to experience a spike in energy levels and a high, we have to consume more and more sugary foods.
Opiate receptors can be found in the brain and are known to control addiction and pain just to name a few. Sugar, once consumed, activates these receptors, leading to addictive behavior. Hence the reason that some experts believe that sugar can be more addictive than cocaine. Essentially, sugar can be likened to a drug, given the fact that it also builds tolerance.
The Statistics on Sugar Consumption in the United States
Sugar is ranked as one of the most common types of food addiction. Given the fact that sugar is found in numerous food types and drinks, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, over recent years, research has helped point out the dangers of high sugar consumption.
The question remains: have people taken the necessary measure to cut sugar out of their diets? According to Statista, this has not been the case. The statistics found on Statista clearly state that the numbers have increased. This is due to the high production and availability of sugar in America.
Below, are some of the statistics on sugar consumption in America:
- Average sugar consumption by Americans ranges between 17 teaspoons and 5 teaspoons per day.
- Americans are said to have consumed at least 11 million metric tons of sugar between the years 2018 and 2019.
What is The Recommended Sugar Intake
With the above statistics in mind, what is the recommended sugar intake? Below is what the American Heart Association recommends:
- Men are recommended to limit their sugar intake to 9 teaspoons per day. This translates to 38 grams or 150 calories per day.
- Women are advised to stick to 6 teaspoons per day, which translates to 25 grams per day.
- When it comes to children, the restricted or recommended amount depends on the age of the child in question. However, the normal range is between 3 to 6 teaspoons per day. This translates to 12 or 25 grams daily.
If you are used to consuming more than the above-mentioned recommendations, start cutting out sugar slowly to make it easier for your body to get used to the change.
The Causes of Sugar Addiction
To better phrase the above title: what factors lead or encourage sugar addiction? Several factors lead to the progression of this condition. Yet, the lifestyle and psychological differences present in each individual can cause the influence of each factor to differ.
Lack of Sleep
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to get full during your late-night snacks? It has a lot to do with two specific hormones: ghrelin and leptin. The release of ghrelin or the hunger hormone tends to increase the longer we stay up at night. Meanwhile, leptin, or the full hormone decreases simultaneously. Hence, we tend to eat more and are less likely to get satisfied.
Low Protein Consumption
Research shows a correlation between blood sugar levels and the amount of protein in the body. That is, a decreased amount of protein consumption will lead to a decreased amount of blood sugar. Hence, the less protein you consume, the more likely you are going to crave sugar.
Deficiency of Minerals
A person that suffers from iron deficiency tends to experience fatigue or drowsiness. This can motivate the individual to turn to sugar to spike their energy levels. Also, take an individual that suffers from magnesium deficiency. They often find themselves craving chocolates or any other sugary food that may contain high levels of magnesium.
Skipping meals is never a good idea, especially if you’re aiming for weight loss. Low levels of carbohydrates deny the body its main source of energy. Hence, the body and brain will end up craving sugar as a way to provide fuel for the body.
Depression and Stress
Depression and stress are more prevalent in today’s society due to how busy we tend to be. Depression, which is a mood disorder, can be characterized by the general feeling of feeling sad and can lead to irritability. Stress, which is characterized by feeling overwhelmed, is also known to lead to depression and other conditions.
In an attempt to suppress these emotions or low moods, we tend to turn to sugary foods. The consumption of such foods encourages the production of happy hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. In other words, they make us feel happy or have heightened emotions for some time.
Signs and Symptoms of Sugar Addiction
- Bad Skin: If you’re battling bad skin, from acne to blackheads, it’s probably time you started limiting your sugar intake. Too much sugar in the blood often translates into unhealthy-looking skin.
- Bloating: Also described as when the stomach feels swollen, bloating can be caused by several reasons. From food allergies to overeating, several factors can cause it. However, fructose is also a major culprit. This is because fructose is difficult to digest.
- Cavity Build-Up: You cannot battle your sugar cravings properly if you do not practice oral hygiene. By not brushing your teeth, you’re giving the bacteria in your mouth and teeth a chance to feed on it. Acid is often the by-product, which then destroys your teeth to create cavities.
- Insomnia: If you can only sleep after you’ve had something sweet, your body has built some tolerance.
- Weight: Too much sugar in the body is often converted into fat and then stored.
- A Low Immune System: Your constant common colds and bouts of flu could be connected to your sugar intake. High sugar intake weakens the white blood cells and can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to Diabetes Type, a condition that can leave us susceptible to other conditions.
The Consequences of Sugar Addiction
Cutting out sugar is difficult, especially if you’ve already built some tolerance. However, the consequences of sugar addiction can lead to serious consequences, such as a damaged liver.
Below are some of the consequences to keep in mind:
- Mood swings: Sugar intake usually causes our energy to spike, our mood along with it. The opposite is true when the sugar levels decrease.
- Liver problems: The liver usually processes fructose. However, too much fructose can damage it and lead to the development of the non-alcoholic fatty liver. It can also cause non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
- Accelerated aging: A high sugar diet damages collagen and elastin which then leads to accelerated aging.
Is Sugar Addiction Treatable?
Sugar addiction, as strong and damaging as it can be, can be treated. With a lot of discipline and the right guidance, you’ll be on your way to living a sugar-free healthy life.
Below are a few things you can do to overcome it:
- Exercise not only helps burn calories, but it also helps deal with depression and stress.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet: Color up your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you get a craving, grab a fruit instead. Also, avoid skipping meals to keep cravings at bay.
- Drink more water: Drink more water to keep your blood sugar levels normal.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are rich in fructose. As stated earlier, too much fructose can lead to liver damage.
- Sleep more: To avoid binge eating at night, go to sleep earlier. Exercising can help get your body tired enough to want to sleep earlier.
Sugar addiction is real and can have some serious consequences if not dealt with early on. By being more aware of the signs and symptoms, you can take the necessary steps to avoid them. If you feel that your sugar addiction is getting out of control, talk to your doctor. There might be an underlying condition that needs to be treated.