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Is the addiction to sugar real?

Most people do not realise that sugar has the same effect on the brain as cocaine. In fact, scientific evidence has shown that given the choice, rats (it would be hard to do a similar type of study on humans for obvious reasons!) will choose sugar instead of cocaine. Their longing for the carbs was so intense that they even went as far as to self-administer electric shocks in their desperation to get some sugar...

However, rats aren’t alone in this drive. Humans, it seems, do something similar. For example, people who’ve undergone bariatric surgery frequently continue to consume highly processed foods - foods rich in white flour, sugar, unhealthy fats, etc. - even if that means it will lead to sickness and diarrhoea. Daily snacking on processed foods, recent studies have shown, rewires the brain’s reward circuits. Cravings for tasty meals light up the brain just like cravings for cocaine do, prompting some researchers to ask whether products such as chips or biscuits can trigger addiction similar to that associated with drugs or alcohol.

The thing is, many of us don't even realise we're eating that much sugar. Many of the so-called "healthy" brands on our supermarket shelves are highly deceiving. I gave a talk a few months ago on healthy eating and as part of that talk showed the audience the sugar content of various foods I had bought in the supermarket earlier in the day. The results were quite shocking. For example, a small bottle (300 ml) of supposedly healthy high-protein drink claiming to have "no added sugar" and clearly targeted towards anyone keen to look after their physical well-being actually contained 15.3 g of sugar - that's almost 4 teaspoons. To put it into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day! Remember, we consume sugar in many of the foods we eat, including fruit, wholegrains, and vegetables, so if we add a sugary drink like this, we're bound to go over our daily limit quite fast.

Sugar found in whole foods isn’t a problem. In fact, our body needs those sugars to survive and function properly. The problem is added sugar. And sugar is added to a lot of foods, like drinks, desserts, yoghurt, cereal, and sauces to mention just a few. How harmful is it? A 2010 study found that an estimated 180,000 deaths a year were linked to sugary beverages such as soda and energy drinks. This figure has very likley increased over the last decade.

So why is sugar so bad for you? Well here are just some of the adverse effects that a diet too high in sugar can lead to:

✓ Weight gain

✓ Tooth decay

✓ Heart disease

✓ Stroke

✓ Diabetes

✓ Liver damage

✓ Kidney damage

✓ High cholesterol

✓ High blood pressure

✓ Certain types of cancer

QUIZ - Are you addicted to sugar?

Take the quiz to find out:

  1. Do you have trouble waking up in the morning?

  2. Do you often have headaches, brain fog, or moodiness?

  3. Do you crave sweet treats and carbs like pasta, bread, and white rice?

  4.  Do you feel guilty after eating sugary snacks, then eat more?

  5. Do you eat sweet treats or drink a soda at least once a day?

If you answered “yes” to any of these statements, you’re probably eating too much sugar. Maybe you eat a lot of sweets or dessert. But as mentioned above, sugar is found in many other products, often seemingly healthy ones. If you’re eating too much sugar, your brain and your body will keep wanting more. Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can help.

If you'd like some help from a qualified nutritionist, get in touch. The Rainbow Goddess offers a whole range of solutions, from individual online sessions and face-to-face consultations to comprehensive personalised programmes.

Check out the services pages for more details:

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