Can you be addicted to sugar?
A simple answer, I know. So let’s delve into more details.
Our sweet receptors evolved during ancestral times as a reward signal for the brain. Mother nature’s natural sweet treats like fruit and honey are nutritious and often full of calories we need. So our brains recognized foods that have a sweet taste as a special treat that makes the body feel good.
It’s the DR Dopamine gene receptor that is triggered by anything we see as reward and it reacts in the same way for who are addicted to drugs or alcohol as for those who are addicted to certain foods – like, say, sugar. What’s more is that the super sweet stuff, like artificial sweeteners and refined sugar, can be an even bigger trigger in the brain’s mechanism than the effects of cocaine. So just like being exposed to smoke can trigger a craving for a person trying to quit cigarettes, images of palatable foods can trigger biochemical cravings too.
So the more we activate the pleasure centres of the brain through repeated consumption of sweet foods, the more we anchor this relationship and deepen the addiction. Scientists have found that the same applies for other food cravings, with the most addictive substances being sugar, fat, flour, wheat, salt, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine.
So is this why most diets don’t work?
Again, it’s a simplified answer so let’s look at why.
Most diet approaches are based on food restriction (that instigate stronger cravings) which can be quite successful in reducing the undesired weight. But if the initial addiction isn’t being managed, then it’s only normal to eventually return to the unhealthy food and begin the addiction all over again. I personally am great at quitting sugar! I’ve done it hundreds of times! Haha!
What really and truly works is lifestyle changes that are adapted slowly. First, the physical cravings must be dealt with. Then you can abstain completely. And not all addictions at once. And since food cravings and food desires can be based physiologically, psychologically, socially or environmentally, it’s important to recognize the triggers and deal with them one at a time. So whether it’s getting everyone in the family to eat healthy and drop the sugar, avoiding having sugar anywhere in the home, changing the types of snacks available, finding activities to do at times cravings are strongest, or whatever other strategy you can come up with, it’s these small steps that will make big differences.
Knowing exactly what is right for your health as an individual can help enormously too. Apps like ph360 and ShaeTM can make optimal health easy so you can concentrate on ditching your sugar addiction. Change your behavior. Change your attitude. And then you’ll be able to change your addiction.