It is estimated that about 184,000 yearly deaths can be attributed to the consumption of sugary drinks worldwide. This number is according to a journal called Circulation which in turn is a follow-up of an abstract presented at a 2013 conference by the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
Dr. James DiNicolantonio published a review of several other studies which among other things seem to point to sugar being more harmful than salt when it comes to cardiovascular diseases.
In an interview with Lisa Mullins from Here & Now, Dr. DiNicolantonio further stated that some studies on rats show that sugar is potentially more addictive that cocaine because even after being hooked on cocaine, they invariably switch to sugar when it is introduced to them.
How dangerous is sugar addiction?
Sugar addiction can be very harmful. people whose dietary calories come from 25% sugar have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. In 2010, more than 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases, and over 6,000 deaths were reported in more than 50 countries. All of these diseases were related to sugar intake.
Dr. Mozafarrian is the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston. He is also the senior author of the study, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian stated that “Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet.”
Researchers, Ahmed S. H. et al stated in their research comparing sugar addiction to drug addiction, “The biological robustness in the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward may be sufficient to explain why many people can have difficulty to control the consumption of foods high in sugar when continuously exposed to them”
It is important to make the distinction between naturally occurring sugars and refined sugars because naturally occurring sugars in things such as fruits and milk can be beneficial to one’s health, unlike refined sugars that are concentrated and consequently consumed in extreme doses.
The 8th Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020 states that sugar shouldn’t comprise more than a tenth of the total daily calorie intake of an individual which has been suggested to be no more than 2000 calories.
The Mechanism of Sugar Addiction
The way sugar functions in our system is quite different from how other addictive substances function. For one thing, glucose, a form of sugar is absolutely required for the smooth operation of the brain. Sugar is needed by the body as well to provide the energy needed for all the bodily functions. In essence, sugar is mandatory, albeit in the correct doses, for the body’s continual survival. The vast majority of other addictive substances are not needed by the body in any form and they can be completely done without.
A study published by Nicole M. Avena et al shows that sugar addiction occurs in rats and follow the four typical stages of addiction, namely: bingeing, withdrawal, craving and sensitization.
In humans, people who eat a lot of sugar end up continuously having a high sugar content in their blood. Simple sugars are the go-to resource for the body’s energy needs and it will not break down stored fat to provide energy when there is sugar available. If the level of sugar in the system remains continually high, the body’s ability to break down fat starts to atrophy since the body never metabolizes it. This is why obese people get so hungry despite all the fat available for use.
Sugar addiction has a second aspect to it. Sugar ingestion boosts brain tryptophan levels which in turn boosts serotonin levels in our brain over time. These neurotransmitters make us feel sated and sleepy. Upon the intake of sugar, we get a dopamine rush and this dopamine is the same reward people who are addicted to drugs seek. However, over time, as we eat more and more sugar in order to get the dopamine rush and the serotonin/tryptophan satiation we only gain excess weight and blood sugar spikes and the consequent metabolic crashes.
Negative Effects of Sugar Addiction
Does sugar addiction cause diabetes?
Yes, sugar addiction can cause diabetes. Excessive quantities of sugar are too difficult for the liver to process, and may lead to insulin resistance. Your pancreas will continue to secrete insulin to counteract all your sugar intake, but evetually will fail to produce enough insulin and result in diabetes.
Chief among the terrible consequences of excessive sugar intake are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. According to a research completed in 2010 which surveyed well over 600,000 people between 1980 to 2010, and across over 50 countries, about 133,000 deaths were recorded from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases, and over 6,000 deaths from cancer.
Another major study that took place over a decade and a half showed that people whose dietary calories come from 25% sugar have a double likelihood of dying from cardiovascular diseases, unlike people whose sugar intake constitutes 10% or less of their daily calorie intake. Furthermore, this trend does not have anything to do with body weight which is to say an obese person that ingests less sugar might be better off than someone who is not but who ingests considerably more sugar.
Moreover, there’s is a research published in 2014 that suggests that sugar may be more dangerous than salt in worsening hypertension and cardiometabolic diseases.
Sugars are carbohydrates that are roughly half glucose and half fructose. Ingesting glucose stimulates your pancreas to secrete the hormone, insulin, which can cause your body to store fats, among other things. Your liver handles the fructose but it is very difficult for the liver to keep up pace with our current level of sugar intake so it releases some of it as fat also and some of it is stored in your liver cells and this leads to a condition called insulin resistance. Your pancreas continues to secrete more insulin to counteract all the carbohydrate in your diet and the result is manifested in body weight and at a critical point, your body is no longer able to regulate itself, at which point your pancreas might fail to keep up with the usual production of insulin and you finally become diabetic as a result. Experts believe this metabolic disease is linked with cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The conclusion here is that sugar is bad for you and can make you very sick.
Unfortunately so many of us today are addicted to sugar. This addiction is not an emotional eating disorder. Most of what we eat today will raise blood sugar levels, hijack taste buds, brain chemistry, hormones and body metabolism.
6 Ways to Overcome Your Sugar Addiction
Helpful ways to overcome sugar addiction include:
- Switching from candies to fruit
- Using artificial sweeteners
- Refusing to keep sugary treats around the house
- Controlling your sugar intake
- Eating a big healthy breakfast to avoid cravings
- Drinking water instead of soda
The more sugar you eat the more you crave, but there is good news. Like many other types of addiction, breaking the habit is not an easy task but there are steps that can be taken. You can detox from sugar in a matter of days. Fortunately, the addiction can be broken mostly by sheer will and careful planning. There are powerful addiction reversal foods you can consume that reverses and resets your body. Here are some suggestions to help in the fight against sugar addiction:
- Switch from candies to fruit: Most fruits contain fructose which is tasty and satisfying. Fructose contained in fruit is metabolized differently from fructose in candies. Just remember to practice moderation still (especially with grapes and cherries) because too much of fruits can also lead to unwanted results.
- Use Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are a common substitute for sugar and when used correctly, they can help you reduce your sugar intake and maybe even eventually cut it off completely. However, artificial sweeteners can make the user crave sugar and it may lead to a vicious cycle. If the use of artificial sweeteners leads to more sugar intake, then it is best if its use is completely ceased.
- Avoid temptation: Most people will not like to make a trip to the store to get even their favorite sugary treat. So if you want to reduce your sugar intake, just get rid of all the sweet foods and sugar itself available within reach and stock up on fruits instead. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
- Take control: When ordering coffee or tea or other such beverages, sweeten it yourself rather than simply asking sugar to be added for you. Also, read the labels of foods you buy and make better choices based on sugar content. If possible buy unsweetened versions of things like yogurt and cereal, which you can then sweeten to responsible levels.
- Eat a big healthy breakfast: People who skip breakfast are often susceptible to cravings throughout the day and when they finally get a chance to eat, they often binge on sugars and such things. So, a healthy meal to start the day will keep the cravings at bay.
- When you’re thirsty, drink water: A lot of people think soft drinks are more refreshing than water and when it comes to quenching thirst, they’ll go for a cold can of soda instead of just water. But water is all you really need. If you must have some hint of flavor in your liquid, you might squeeze a bit of lemon in your water to give it that nice tang.
Employing these suggestions will assist in the quest to break sugar addiction and finally get rid of that niggling sweet tooth.
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