Sugar: Is it an addictive substance?
Sugar intake triggers the release of the mood-elevating hormone, serotonin; This makes us feel an overall sense of comfort or happiness. Eating sweets creates a sudden spike in blood sugar, giving us that “sugar high”, but hours later when our blood sugar normalizes, we end up feeling exhausted, moody, and wanting more (Pivco).
Surprising research suggests that sugary foods create similar brain activity in animals as addictive drugs. Neuroscientists have shown that changes in dopamine levels (a chemical in the body related to the “reward center” in the brain) are similar to those changes seen in animals on cocaine. One particular 2010 study performed by Scripps Research Institute showed that lab rats with daily access to sugary foods, started binge-eating and consuming less of the readily available nutritious foods. In a similar study, psychologists at Princeton University studied lab rats that were given a 10% solution of sugar water, the same amount of sugar present in most soft drinks. There were no significant results for the rats that were allowed the occasional drink, however, those that were allowed to drink the sugar water everyday also showed patterns of addiction. Additionally, the animals experienced withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, shakes, and tremors when the effects of the sugar were blocked by a drug (Langreth and Stanford).
Is Sugar so Toxic it Needs Regulation?
Recently, controversy began after an article in the current journal issue of Nature suggested that sugar be regulated by the government, as strictly as alcohol and tobacco due to its “toxic” and addicting properties. The researchers suggest that the regulations should go as far as placing an age limit on purchasing products with added sugar as well as banning the sales of those items in and around schools (Wanjek).
Even though this idea might seem far-fetched, the researchers cited many studies and statistics that support that sugar is detrimental to our health. Added sugar found in sugary drinks and other foods, including those with high-fructose corn syrup, is the leading cause of obesity in this country as well as other chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and type II diabetes. In the U.S. alone, one third of adults and 17% of children are obese, and those numbers are only increasing. For years, people knew that cigarette smoking was harmful, but it wasn’t until later that the government placed restrictions on nicotine and companies’ marketing campaigns (Wanjek).
Additional Sugar Truths
With this information, it is very important to be more conscious of what we are eating. It’s alright to splurge once in a while and indulge in that chocolate birthday cake, but on a daily basis it can affect your health. According to Nancy Appleton, PhD author of “Lick the Sugar Habit”, sugar can affect our health in the following ways, other than just weight gain (Pivco).
-Suppresses the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infection
-Increases the risk of blood clots and stroke
-Contributes to hyperactivity, depression, anxiety and difficulty concentrating
-Helps speed up the aging process, including wrinkles and grey hair
1. Langreth, Robert and Duane D. Stanford. “Fatty Foods as Addictive as Cocaine in Growing Body of Science.”
November 2, 2011. Bloomberg.com http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-02/fatty-foods-addictive-as-cocaine-in-growing-body-of-science.html
2. Pivco, Debra. “Sugar Addiction Detox 101.” http://www.teambeachbody.com/about/newsletters/-/nli/253#150954335
3. Wanjek, Christopher. “Sugar Should be Regulated as Toxin, Researchers Say.”
February 2, 2012. http://news.yahoo.com/sugar-regulated-toxin-researchers-180605186.html