Addiction is the compulsive, uncontrollable use of a substance at the expense of almost all daily activities and in increasingly intense cycles. The development of addiction is divided into 3 stages.
The first: called binge . It is characterized by the progressive increase in the abuse of a substance. It consists of the consumption of a substance and indicates that it went from being a substance of use to one of abuse.
The second stage is characterized by the appearance of withdrawal symptoms and indicates the stage of dependence . Finally, the third stage characterized by the compelling desire to consume the substance and relapses.
The beginning of this addiction is reflected in consuming more than what is thought to be consuming. An intermediate stage involves visible changes such as relationships with other people. And the final stage is when you completely lose control in your relationship with the substance.
Although we usually associate addiction with drug use , there is also addiction to sugar . In the following article we will see what sugar addiction is and how you can overcome it.
What is sugar addiction?
Sugar addiction occurs through certain pathways that are activated by drugs. These same pathways are also activated after the ingestion of sugars , stimulating reward mechanisms. Also, bad habits help this to happen too.
Table sugar is a carbohydrate that provides 4 calories per gram . It is capable of releasing opioids and dopamine at the brain level, which can become a potential addiction.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, fentanyl, and pain relievers legally available by prescription. On the other hand, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the flow of information from the frontal lobes of the brain and other areas.
Important: According to the World Health Organization (WHO ) , a high consumption of sugar can lead to an increase in the development of obesity. Diseases such as diabetes , arterial hypertension or cardiovascular diseases can also occur .
On the other hand, sugar addiction can also lead to the development of other conditions, which is why it is important to be attentive to our daily sugar consumption.
Causes of sugar addiction
A study carried out by the Department of Psychology at Princeton University shows that excess calories lead to an unbalanced diet and a sedentary life , which means a progressive accumulation of fat . (1)
In this sense, excessive sugar consumption could be based on different causes that we mention below:
Prolonged fasting may be associated with long-term health risks , as such diets impair the action of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin , which can increase the risk of diabetes.
Note: Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas , which controls the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. It helps store glucose (our source of energy) and regulates your body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
According to various studies, stress can increase the consumption of foods high in sugar and fat. 40% of people claim to eat more when stressed, and 80% of these prefer sweets. (two)
When our body is used to sugar , we should not leave it from one moment to another. This alone would make us really want to eat. Since glucose activates the release of dopamine .
Drop in serotonin levels
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that serves to carry signals between neurons throughout the body. Helps regulate mood and memory . It also has important functions in other parts of the body, such as regulating sleep.
Note: When serotonin decreases , the need to consume sugars increases, since its decrease produces a moderate depressive effect. (3)
The development of depression includes a reduction in brain neurotrophic factor , which is critical for the life cycle of neurons.
Activation of reward mechanism
Sugar influences brain reward circuitry, similar to addictive drugs . This produces a feeling of enjoyment, happiness and well-being, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and opioids .
Effects of sugar addiction
The negative effects of sugar do not only belong to dental or cardiovascular health . excessive consumption also affects mental health, aggravating disorders such as depression, anxiety or learning problems.
Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the population, and there could be a relationship between mortality and excessive sugar consumption.
This disease develops in people whose body presents resistance to insulin . Although obesity, smoking and lack of exercise also increase the probability of developing diabetes. (4)
Note: The increase in sugary drinks has triggered the probability of contracting this disease. Not because sugar has a direct effect, but as an indirect cause, through the associated weight gain.
The excessive consumption of sugar produces obesity as a main disease, which we should not overlook, since obesity like diabetes itself increases the risk of premature death.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a disease that is associated with an increased risk of coronary disease; insulin resistance influences the prematurity and severity of atherosclerosis that patients with diabetes mellitus develop.
Arterial hypertension is one of the most prevalent cardiovascular diseases worldwide. It has been associated with a high intake of fructose , with a risk of suffering arterial hypertension with associated cardiovascular risk.
It is an inherited disorder that causes high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides . Hyperlipidemia is a very common genetic disorder, which increases blood fats and can cause early heart attacks.
When ingesting sugar, the plaques (film of bacteria that cover our teeth and gums ) produce an acid that is the true cause of cavities, and not sugar as we mostly believe.
Depression and anxiety
When you eat sugar, your body has to secrete a lot of insulin, which ends up causing a hormonal alteration , which significantly influences moods. Appearing like this, symptoms of depression and anxiety.
learning and memory problems
According to a study carried out by the Charité University in Berlin, consuming high levels of sugar has negative implications for our health. The results provide further evidence that glucose can atrophy the brain. (5)
How to overcome sugar addiction?
Sugar addiction has been called the disease of the 21st century. We know that consuming it in excess can be very detrimental to our health . Now, next we will show you how we can overcome this addiction.
Become aware of the problem
Knowing that we have a problem is the first step in dealing with it. It is not about nipping in the bud and avoiding any food that contains sugar, as that could cause the opposite effect.
Dose the consumption little by little
The most advisable thing is to make small modifications to our diet . Along with a healthy diet , including vegetables and fruits, and foods rich in nutrients. Thanks to this we will gradually reduce sugar consumption, thus reducing sugar addiction.
Maintain a balanced diet
The WHO recommends that sugar consumption should not exceed 10% of the total energy consumed per day, in order to maintain a balanced diet.
Avoid processed foods
They are foods that go through mechanical processing . In addition to the high amount of chemical ingredients, processed food contains high levels of salt, sugar andSaturated fats.
Important: Consuming processed foods in large quantities can cause various health problems such as increased body fat or diseases such as fatty liver, insulin resistance and diabetes.
Avoid carbonated and pasteurized drinks
Some of these drinks contain among their ingredients high fructose corn syrup , a high-calorie liquid sweetener created from corn starch.
These drinks do not produce satiety , so their consumption does not decrease food intake. There is also evidence linking excessive consumption of sugary drinks with an increased risk of diabetes .
Opt for natural fruit juices
Fruit juices are a great source of fiber, and since they contain a low caloric intake , they thus achieve an energy balance and help avoid consuming other products such as packaged juices.
Distract the mind when having cravings
When we are discouraged, sweets help us improve our mood . However, this does not help us as we think. There are many ways to distract ourselves, such as taking a walk, doing some sport or doing our favorite hobby.
According to studies from the University of Toronto , consuming nuts causes a protective effect on insulin resistance , and ensures that consuming them daily improves glycemic control . (6)
Avoid artificial sugar substitutes
Artificial sweeteners cause changes in the composition and function of the intestinal microbiota , consequently increasing the probability of developing metabolic disorders.
- Sugar addiction is produced by the activation of reward mechanisms, after the intake of sugars.
- The most common causes are prolonged fasting, high stress, restricted diet, and low serotonin levels.
- Excess sugar consumption causes cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, tooth decay, depression and anxiety.
- Sugar addiction can be overcome by dosing consumption , avoiding processed foods, consuming nuts and natural juices, doing physical activity.
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.