Sugar: The Sweet Poison
Researchers now believe that sugar should be treated as “an addictive drug” and that “abusing this drug is causing harmful health effects “
Sugary foods have a great impact on the reward system in the brain which causes dopamine to be released as a reward. Drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and nicotine hijack the brain system. This leads to intense feelings of reward that can result in cravings and deeper addiction. Drugs and sugar both activate the same reward system in the brain causing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical circuit is activated by natural rewards and behavior that are essential to our survival and the continuation of the species such as eating tasty, high energy foods, having sex and interacting socially. This Activated system makes one want to repeat the behavior.
Substance –use disorder is characterized by a variety of problems including cravings, continuing use despite awareness of negative consequences trying to quit but not managing to, tolerance and withdrawal. Although sugary foods are much more easily available, excessive consumption can lead to any number of problems similar to that of addiction. So research tries to draw some conclusion that sugar may have addictive qualities. However, there is no concrete evidence currently that links sugar with an addiction or withdrawal system in humans currently but studies using rats suggest this possibility.
Dopamine has an important role in the brain, directing our attention towards things like tasty foods that are linked to feelings of reward.
The dopamine system gets activated at the anticipation of feelings of pleasure. This means our attention can be drawn to cakes and chocolates when we are not necessarily hungry, evoking cravings.
Even our routine can cause sugar cravings. We can subconsciously want a bar of chocolate or a sugary drink in the afternoon if this is a normal part of our daily habits. Repeated activation of the dopamine reward system causes the brain to adapt to frequent reward system stimulation. When we enjoy lots of these foods on a regular basis the system starts to change to prevent it from becoming overstimulated
Cutting sugar from your diet may not be easy, as so many processed or convenience foods have added sugars hidden in their ingredients. Switching from sugar to a sweetener (Stevia, aspartame, sucralose) can cut down on calories, but it is still feeding the sweet addiction.
Physically, quitting sugar in your diet can help with weight loss, may reduce acne, improve sleep and moods and could stop those 3 pm slumps at work and school. And if you do reduce sugar consumption, sugary foods that were previously eaten to excess can taste overpoweringly sweet due to a recalibration of your sweetness sensation, enough to discourage over-consumption!
The key trying to reduce your current consumption to 50% consciously and switch to healthy alternatives.