BY PUJA GUPTA
Sugar in small quantities is not a health risk, but we are simply eating too much of it. Excess sugar in the diet is bad for our waistline as well as heart we all know. But there is evidence now to prove that high levels of sugar consumption (or sugar addiction) have a serious negative effect on the mental health as well.
WHO recommends only 5 percent of daily caloric requirement from sugar. It is as high as 13 -15 per cent in a typical diet with zero nutritional value. Mostly in the US, people are consuming five times more the amount of sugar is required.
Research has proven that with high intake of sugar the communication among brain cells is impaired leading to learning difficulties and impaired memory. It may contribute to depression and anxiety. Sudden binges and craving for sugar causes the blood sugar to spike then drop, often called “crash down” causes irritability, mood swings, and fatigue, underlines Preety Tyagi, Nutritionist and founder of MY22BMI.
Recent studies suggest that sugar and carb-rich foods can also mess with nerve signals and neurotransmitters, sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter – Serotonin. Cravings for sugar lead to the over-activity of the serotonin pathways, which causes depletion of the limited supply of the feel-good neurotransmitter. It mimics symptoms of depression.
Tyagi explains the cycle and how much is your sugar addiction costing us and suggests ways to overcome it.
Sugar addiction – The vicious cycle
Sugar is as addictive as cocaine, and it stimulates the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine sometimes even more. The more sugar we eat, the more dopamine is released, and you experience that “high” and just like these drugs getting off sugar leads to symptoms of intense withdrawal, hunger and restlessness! With time the dopamine receptors in the brain become less sensitive to the presence of sugar, your brain needs more sugar to generate the same “high” and your addiction to sugar grows stronger.
Over-consumption of sugar creates a chaos in the brain; it creates a perpetual cycle of intense cravings.
When a person consumes sugar, it activates tongue taste receptors signals to the brain. It lights up the reward pathway releasing the feel-good hormone – Dopamine, blood sugar level increases. Mass insulin is secreted to drop the blood sugar levels. Insulin sores sugar as fat in the liver blood sugar levels drop rapidly. Body craves for sugar. It increases appetite and binge eating for more sugar. Hence, the cycle starts again.
How much is your sugar addiction costing you?
Some foods like fruits have natural sugar and it comes along with many vitamins and minerals, but there is far too much sugar hidden in most of the food that we consume in today’s lifestyle. Most foods are highly refined, processed and packed with preservatives readily available in the supermarkets and we are consuming sugar in a quantity which is 5 times more than the desired amount. This excess consumption of sugar is predominantly the cause of childhood obesity, developmental issues and behavioral problems in adults and kids.
What’s scarier the consumption or the addiction? The addiction sets in without notice, with the multi-million food chains making sure that this addiction stays strong. “Low fat” hides the fact of excess sugar in the item, adds to the empty calories, & we end up putting on extra kilos.
Overcoming the sugar addiction:
Most people understand that excess sugar is bad but still something prevents them to overcome the addiction.
1. First, most people don’t realize how much sugar they are consuming every day.
2. They don’t take their sugar cravings seriously as addiction.
3. They try to stay away from sugar-laden snacks but find it too hard to do so. Though the addiction is strong and compelling it is possible to free your mind and body from this. It can be done in about 2 weeks if we start early:
Step # 1: Get rid of all the processed foods and sugar from the house
Step # 2: Eat breakfast that is healthy and wholesome
Step # 3: Drink more water
Step # 4: Prepare healthy snacks and keep them handy