I have a confession. I am an addict. A serious addict. My name is Mama Plum and I’m a sugar addict. Nutrition is extremely important to me and I know all the negative effects that sugar can have on the body, and even with all that knowledge I still can’t give it up! I may not eat much refined cane sugar, but let’s face it, sugar by any other name is still sugar. Honey, maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar even too much dried fruit, at the end of the day it’s all sugar. And I love it all. If I could mainline that shizz I probably would. I envy you mysterious beings that can eat just one square of dark chocolate a day. I swear I start out with that very intention and every time find myself eating the last square then looking around in my paranoid over sugared state to make sure no one is watching before I lick that foil wrapper clean. No joke. One time my husband walked in on me and I just froze mid lick thinking if I stayed perfectly still I would blend into the wall and he would walk right by me. I’m not proud. I know that it is doing me no favors. Especially with the health struggles I have had in the past. Anyone who has struggled with autoimmunity knows that the inflammation sugar causes is only compounding an already inflamed body and further confusing an overactive immune system. I want to give it up, so why is it so hard? I decided to really look into why it has such a hold on me, and I was shocked at what I found. Here is what I learned.
Sugar is a drug
We knew this in theory for a long time. Just look at any child after a birthday party and you can see the physiological and behavioral changes that sugar can induce. It’s real. How real? It turns out that sugar can be more addictive than cocaine. Studies have shown that sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain and affects the reward center. In one study done with rats, the rats were given a lever where they could administer a saccharine or sucrose solution or a solution with cocaine. The rats chose the sucrose/saccharine solution over the cocaine! Another study with rats showed that Oreos stimulated more neurons in the pleasure center of the brain than cocaine or morphine did.
Sugar addiction: Chasing the sugar dragon
High sugar foods activate the same region of the brain as drugs
A study from Harvard found that high glycemic (high sugar) foods and substance abuse engage the same brain mechanisms. An area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is involved in the brain’s reward circuit. Drugs increase dopamine in this part of the brain activating this reward circuit. I will give you one guess as to what other substance also increases dopamine in this area of the brain. You guessed it! freaking sugar. Here’s the really messed up part, research also showed that eating sugar regularly actually down regulates the dopamine receptors in this area of the brain. So overtime the sugar you are eating to stimulate the dopamine is actually causing your dopamine receptors to atrophy leaving you less responsive to the dopamine so you need more and more sugar to get the original high. Sound familiar? It is classic drug addiction. Chasing the sugar dragon.
The detrimental effects of sugar
Sugar tastes awesome, and we now know it gives us a temporary high, but it also exacts a toll on the body like any other drug. Here are some of the negative effects sugar has on our bodies.
- Sugar put stress on the liver. The liver converts sugar into fat. Some of the fat is sent out into the body but some can remain. Excess sugar can actually lead to Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Sugar increases bad cholesterol and Triglycerides, potentially increasing risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Sugar increases uric acid levels which are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease.
- Creates insulin resistance and puts you at risk for Type II Diabetes.
- Current research is showing a link between high sugar diets and increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Sugar may contribute to depression and other mood disorders.
There are a multitude of good reasons to quit sugar, or at the very least find a way to consume it only on occasion. So now that I am armed with the knowledge of how hard this sweet drug can be to quit, I have to devise a strategy to outwit this tricky crystalline SOB. I will let you know in my next post just how I plan to kick this white horse to the curb. Anyone want to do this with me? There’s power in numbers. Say it with me….Hello my name is (fill in the blank), and I am a sugar addict…. but not for long.