Sweets, cakes, cookies. Obviously, you can see your favorite sweets right now in your mind. We have something sweet after lunch, we were receiving it on holidays as a present and probably get used to consider sweets as something quite desirable. Some of us use sweets when we are in stress, bored or angry – this is so called emotional eating. It’s known that sugar feeds our brain and we have to receive some every day. But a lot of people all over the world have a real addiction to sugar. So, why do we overeat? Why cookies and ice cream have such power over us?
While some people are blaming themselves in weak-will, others think that their uncontrollable craving can be explained by brain’s work. Research from 2013 proved that “sugar addiction” is the addiction indeed. 12 overweight men were given, in series, two identical (same calories, sweetness, texture and macronutrient content) milkshakes but with different glycemic index (a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates the food’s effect on a person’s blood glucose (also called blood sugar) level). They were measured with the activity of the brain region that controls addiction, blood sugar and hunger. Measuring after the second milkshake with high glycemic index showed to cause spike in blood sugar and insulin and an increase in reported hunger and cravings four hours after the shake. That was quite predictable, but the interesting fact was that the brain region that controls addiction was lit up in high level.
So, that is how it works. “Excess sugar consumption has been proven to contribute directly to weight gain. It has also been shown to repeatedly elevate dopamine levels which control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres in a way that is similar to many drugs of abuse including tobacco, cocaine and morphine. After long-term consumption, this leads to the opposite, a reduction in dopamine levels. This leads to higher consumption of sugar to get the same level of reward”.
We can see that obesity and diabetes are not the only issues about sugar. The term “addiction” means psychological dependence and therefore is a mental or cognitive problem, not just a physical issue. Addiction is “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health”.
Despite of some researches, which argue against including sugar in the list of addictions, people usually describe similar feelings as the real addicts do. Even if “sugar addiction” can’t be described as a real health disease, it’s a huge psychological problem still for people who have to fight with their craving every day.But are there any ways to break a vicious cycle? First of all, it’s necessary to prevent an “emotional eating”. Here are some tips:
- focus on what you eat. One of the first reasons of overeating is unawareness;
- stop thinking about sweets as the only reward you can get;
- try to remember that eating is not the salvation of all problems, it’s impossible to cure bad feelings with a bar of chocolate;
- eat regularly. Waiting too long can make you to choose sugary, fatty meal to cut the hunger;
- eat a bit of what you are craving, don’t stress your body and mind by stopping eating sugar instantly;
- remember about the results. Keep in mind what will you achieve in the end.
By Diana Podgurskaia