Is sugar addiction real? Sugar addiction does not exist in the way we think it is. The word addiction implies that sugar causes the same neurobiological responses as say a hard drug like cocaine addiction. But research shows that while humans do exhibit certain addictive behaviors like binging, our repeated overconsumption of sugar is the not the result of the normal cyclical neurological responses that we normally see in drug addiction.
Does sugar addiction exist?
That said, our current overconsumption of sugar is still a very serious issue that involves difficult to break habits. In fact, it may be the biggest health problem of this decade. There are two kinds of sugar – naturally occurring that already exists naturally in fruits or grains, and added sugar like sugar added to ketchup or yogurt. “Sugar addiction” refers to eating far too much added sugar. A lot of the added sugar we are eating is not just in obvious foods like desserts and sweets, but hidden in foods that marketed as healthy, like pasta sauce, low fat yogurts, or protein bars.
Studies show that added sugar addiction is costing millions a year in dental care, and trillions a year in medical health care costs. And that’s just for the United States, which surpasses every other country in sugar related illnesses and ensuing costs for treatment. We are currently overeating added sugar by several tablespoons on average daily, and our consumption is steadily increasing every year according to national surveys.
So what’s the best way to quit? Here are two ways to quit your sugar addiction.
1. Replace foods
Replace desserts and processed sweets with fruits. The next time you get a craving for a sugary dessert like a chocolate chip cookie or ice cream, choose a fruit instead. If we have gotten into the habit of regularly indulging our sugar cravings, it’s incredibly difficult to quit all sugary desserts cold turkey. So for greater chances of success, divert your craving and try a sliced apple with some peanut butter. If you’re actively trying to eat healthier, it will feel like a victory and you’ll be able to treat your sweet tooth with a food that has naturally occurring sugar rather than added sugar. Many foods with naturally occurring sugars also do not give you immediate sugar high because they gradually enter your blood stream. So these foods will not kick a cyclical sugar craving where you chase a sugar high that is followed by a crash and another craving.
2. Educate yourself
Learn how to read labels. Educate yourself on the numerous names for sugar – there are more than 50 names for sugar. Words that end in -ose are names for added sugars and the higher these are on the ingredient list, the more sugar there is in that food. Be careful of certain words, from obvious sugars that are not derived from traditional sugar cane like brown rice sugar or coconut sugar to less obvious terms like “from concentrate”.
Between now and July 2018, you may have to most of the label research legwork yourself. But by July 2018, the FDA in the United States will require a new row on food labels for added sugars. This row will also show daily value percentage and grams of sugar, and will be immensely helpful for immediately noting the added sugar content of a packaged food.