We know it’s bad for us, but every time we taste sugar, we want more. So, what happens to the sugar that makes us crave it even when we don’t need it?
The Science Behind Sugar Addiction
Sugar’s effects on the brain, according to researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, are comparable to the mechanism responsible for cocaine addiction. This creates a vicious cycle in which our body “asks” for the sweet, which can result in a brief sense of pleasure. After consuming sugar, the brain produces opioids, which are natural compounds that produce a sensation of extreme pleasure. Recognizing this pleasant sensation, the brain continues to want more and more opioids and, as a result, more sugar.
In the presence of sweets, the brain creates a chemical with a psychological effect that is regarded pleasurable to the user, or if this stimulus is repeatedly engaged by the entry of sugar into the body, a condition capable of deregulating and diminishing the efficacy of dopamine signal receptors. This process takes three weeks of consistent ingestion and more than sugar, the time required to build the addiction.
Affective memory is also involved. Do you remember the smell of chocolate-topped carrot cake from your grandmother’s house? Or are there additional palate stimulation that provides us with pleasant sensations? They can contribute to our understanding of why we enjoy candy. Other scientific evidence suggests that a predilection for sweet tastes is related to positive experiences and pleasant recollections. Most people’s brains experience affective pleasure when they consume sugar, resulting in sensory fulfillment related to their psychological and cognitive state.
When we eat, we attach feelings of sadness, anguish, and other concerns. That is, low serotonin, dopamine, or an absence of these opioids in the blood induce us to seek happiness or well-being in eating.
Excess sugar consumption elevates dopamine levels in the body in the same manner that cocaine does. Long-term use of the substance, on the other hand, results in a decrease in dopamine production by the body. As a result, the person feels compelled to consume even more sugar to regain earlier dopamine levels and prevent feelings of depression.
How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body
The initial reaction to sugar is elevated blood glucose levels. This causes an increase in the generation of free radicals, which are chemicals capable of reacting with cells and causing harm to them, particularly in nerve cells. Excessive levels of free radicals indicate that the cell is about to start a programmed death process known as apoptosis, which is caused by excessive consumption of sugars and sweets, which can destroy neurons, diminishing the brain’s functioning capacity.
It is a necessary hormone for optimal sugar metabolism. The insulin is then delivered to the brain, where it stimulates dopaminergic neurons. The dopamine created activates several brain circuits that impact emotions, resulting in pleasurable sensations.
How To Cut Down On Sugar
Several solutions are available, the first of which is a shift in eating habits. To diminish the desire to eat sweets, appropriate supplements can be utilized, as can chemicals that stimulate the neurotransmitters responsible for pleasure, or pharmaceuticals that make the body’s neurotransmitters last longer, as is the case with antidepressants.
Sugar modifies taste, therefore re-educating the palate does not happen overnight. Before lowering sugar consumption, it is critical to raise awareness, that is, the individual must understand why sugar consumption must be reduced “, he observes. For her, starting with naturally sweet foods like dried or cooked fruits is a good place to start. And it’s not essential to give up chocolate forever.” A little piece of bitter chocolate is recommended because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts dopamine production, resulting in a sense of well-being and fullness.
However, if limiting sweets is not the proper solution, it is important to consider the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations, which state that sugar consumption should not exceed 5% of daily calories or, in general, 25 grams. And there are 25 grams of sugar because the molecule can be found in other forms and names, and it can also be found in salty meals.