Sugar addiction is a fairly common phenomenon these days. Anybody with a sweet tooth knows only too well how addictive sweets can be. Eat a piece of chocolate candy or a barfi (Indian sweet), and you just want more and more of it. For some, it can become an almost insatiable craving for the sweet.
The idea of ‘sugar addiction’ is not new, with dieticians and health specialists discussing it on TV shows and magazines. However, scientists, until now, have not been able to prove that something like addiction to sugar does indeed exist.
However, recently, researchers induced rats to binge on sugar, and they discovered that when they were deprived of the sugar they displayed typical withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, chattering of teeth, and brain chemistry changes, akin to drug withdrawal.
In fact, it has been observed that sugar activates the production of the natural opioids of the brain. Opioids are chemicals that have a morphine-like effect in the body. That is one of the fundamental factors of the process of addiction. In effect, therefore, when sugar is consumed the brain gets addicted to the opioids produced by itself, just as it would to heroin or morphine. Although the effect is bigger when drugs are taken, but basically the process is the same. Scientists deduce that just like drugs, sugar has the ability of activating an ‘incentive system’ within the brain which helps in reinforcing behaviors.
The Modern Epidemic of Refined Sugar Addiction
The consumption of refined sugar was practically non-existent in the past. Today, however, there is a surfeit of it, existing in practically everything we eat, such as soups, sauces, breads, cookies, jellies, confectionaries, and most processed convenience foods. And these foods are consumed by us regularly, which is one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic we are experiencing currently. It goes without saying that if these foods were to be withdrawn, most of us would experience sugar addiction symptoms to some degree.
It also has to be kept in mind that it is not just refined sugar that is the culprit. Starchy food such as potatoes, pasta, and grain, which are broken down into sugar, or glucose, in the body, have the same effect.
What are the Signs of Sugar Addiction?
Similar to other addictions, those who are prone to sugar addiction usually include a lot of sugar laden foods in their diet, or have a need to eat high-sugar foods frequently. If these foods are denied, or they have no access to them, they may experience symptoms like panic attacks, irritability, moos swings, anxiety, and frustration.
They will also experience intense cravings for sugary foods along with headaches, slight tremors, and fantasizing about high-sugar foods. And when they do get access to sugar rich foods, they will get an instantaneous rush and be swiftly satiated.
What are the Effects of Sugar Addiction
Although sugary foods provide intense pleasure, consuming it excessively for a long period of time can result in deleterious physiological effects. It can result in hyperglycemia, or abnormally high blood sugar levels, with high chances of developing diabetes as well as pancreatic disorders occurring. Some of the other effects of sugar addiction are obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, premature aging, and so on.