Sugar addiction is REAL: What you need to know about this scary addictive response

People with a sweet tooth may not realize that their love for sugar might be an addiction.

This may be hard to believe since unlike most addictive substances, sugar is not illegal. Sweets are available almost everywhere and can even be bought by anyone, regardless of age. However, this only means that people have to be more careful with the amount of sugar that they’re eating to avoid getting addicted to it.

Sugar triggers the reward pathway, the same one that’s activated by any pleasurable activity, and causes neurons to produce more dopamine. This chemical is one of the feel-good hormones in the body. It signals the part of the brain called nucleus accumbens, which is involved in pleasure-related decision-making and motor movements. Furthermore, the process activates hormones that create cellular memory of the pleasurable experience of eating sweets. Because of these, people who are addicted to sugar tend to reach out for more sweets and will crave them more in the future.

Although this process also happens for other foods, it is stronger for sugar and carbohydrates. This is because the brain’s pleasure center has evolved to reward eating energy-giving foods. Sugar is a great source of energy. However, too much of it can cause blood glucose to rise to dangerous levels.

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How does sugar addiction affect your body?

Sugar has been shown to work in a manner similar to drugs, causing abnormal dopamine spikes not caused by healthy foods. Studies have also shown that sugar affects the opioid pathway, the same one that’s activated by the use of heroin and morphine.

Sugar addiction has also been associated with many health problems, including:

  • Heart disease — In one study, researchers found that people who ate 25 percent of their daily calorie intake from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart diseasecompared to those who got less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.
  • Depression — A person’s mental health can also suffer from sugar addiction. This is because regular sugar consumption can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate throughout the day and consequently, induce mood swings. Studies have also shown that sugar can increase the risk of depression, especially in patients with schizophrenia, since it can suppress the hormone known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
  • Excessive inflammation — Inflammation is a natural response that occurs during the healing process. However, too much of it can lead to chronic health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and arthritis. People who eat too much sugar put their body in a constant state of inflammation which consequently increases their risk of these diseases.
  • Diabetes — Sugar addiction can lead to insulin resistance, which allows blood sugar levels to rise to unhealthy levels. This condition can progress into Type 2 diabetesand increase the risk of amputation due to the insufficient blood supply to peripheral areas like the legs and feet.
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Sugar withdrawal

Completely removing sugar from your diet may lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to those that result from a drug detox. These include anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and trembling. In addition to this, you may experience more intense sugar cravings, changes in appetite, and sleeping problems like insomnia.

Overcoming sugar addiction is more easily achieved if you gradually remove sugar from your diet. Go for healthier options like fruit instead of sugar-laden sweets. There are also healthy sugar alternatives that you can use.