You may joke about getting your daily afternoon sugar fix and about needing it to get through the rest of the day, but it isn’t particularly funny. As research keeps finding and confirming, sugar is addictive. It may not be heroin or cocaine, but it can get you hooked and it can cause major, long-term health problems. Before you pick up that next sugary soda, frosted donut or chocolate bar, think about what you’re doing and the reality of your addiction.
Sugar as a Drug
Most of us have long known that sugar is a substance we crave. Those of us who are more observant of our own habits may have also noticed that we crave it more in certain situations. One recent study found that having intermittent access to sugar actually causes changes in the brain similar to those caused by addictive drugs and alcohol. It also causes similar symptoms and behaviors like binging, craving and withdrawal.
Eating sugar is most harmful when you consume a lot at once. This is similar to drug or alcohol use. When you eat a large amount of sugar in one sitting, you get a spike in blood sugar that is similar to getting a high from a drug. When it wears off, you crash and naturally feel an urge, or craving, to seek out sugar again. You also experience a release of pleasure chemicals in your brain when you eat sugar, just like with drug use.
Dangers of Sugar Addiction
Eating too much sugar has been connected to a number of health problems. Recently, it has even been associated with a greater risk of dying, even for people who are not overweight. One of the most obvious health risks is weight gain. Consuming too much sugar leads to being overweight, and for many people, being obese. Too much sugar can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, an impaired immune system, and the development of chronic diseases, including heart disease and some types of cancer. Sugar seems harmless and innocent, but in large quantities it can have a seriously negative impact on your health and well-being.
Avoiding the Sugar Rush
Sugar addiction is a modern phenomenon. Natural sugars found in whole foods are not dangerous to ingest. It’s when sugar is added to processed foods that we have a problem. As manufacturers have crammed sugar into foods to make them taste better, the result has been a nation of addicts. Sugar is in your salad dressing, bread, soda, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, barbecue, crackers and a number of other foods where you would least expect it. While added sugar should make up no more than 10 percent of our daily calorie intake, most of us get much more than that.
To cut sugar out of your diet and to avoid or reduce your addiction to this sweet drug, cut back on processed and packaged foods. When you do buy these foods, read the nutrition label and look for sugar content. You should limit added sugar to between 24 and 36 grams per day. If you are already hooked on sugary foods, use fresh fruits to get your fix. They are better sources of sugar because they don’t provide that blood sugar spike and can help you wean yourself from this drug-like substance. For your health and your future, you need to resist the urge to eat too much sugar.