Five years ago when I first wrote on the effects of sugar and its addictive potential, there were a lot of questions and doubts that sugar is addictive. The Harvard Study, printed in the June 26, 2013 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, puts those questions to rest.
Twelve overweight or obese men age 18 to 35 were given a milk shake on two separate occasions. The milkshakes were the same calories, nutrients and taste. One caused high blood sugar and the other did not cause high blood sugar. A functional MRI done four hours after ingestion of the shake slowed greater brain activity at the pleasure or reward center of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, in the participants who had consumed the milkshakes that caused high blood sugar. This is the same area that lights up in persons with drug addiction or gambling addiction.
Sugar addiction does exist. But the addiction isn’t just to sugar. Anything that will elevate blood sugar (high glycemic index foods) does the same thing—white flour, white potatoes, refined starch.
“But I just love to eat sugar—that doesn’t mean I’m addicted.” True. Let’s define some terms.
Urge: a strong need or desire to have or do something
Craving: a very strong desire for something; intense, urgent, abnormal desire or longing
Addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something; compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal
So…How Do I Know if I am Addicted to Sugar?
If you answer “Yes” to most of the following statements, you are probably addicted to sugar.
1. I consume sweets, even if I am not hungry, because of cravings.
2. I find myself constantly eating sweets throughout the day.
3. I have an increased desire for sweets when I reduce or stop eating them.
4. My sugar eating causes physical problems, and yet I keep eating it.
5. When I eat more sugar, my emotions improve.
6. When sweets are unavailable, I will go find some.
7. I spend a lot of time feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
8. I can’t function at my best because of needing to eat sweets.
9. I need to eat more and more sweets to get the same emotional help I got before.
10. After the first bite, I will binge and eat the whole sack of sweets.
11. (bonus) If I don’t eat sweets, I will be an emotional wreck.
If you are addicted, or feel your cravings are getting out of control, there is help.
We will soon be releasing a highly successful program, Sweet Freedom From Sugar. It will walk you through the 5 steps to freedom from sugar addiction. If you would like more details, place your name on the interest list and we will keep you informed as to its release date, probably in the next month.
Dr. Stan Gardner, a Certified Nutrition Specialist, is passionate about helping people reach their peak in health. His office is in Sandy, UT, and he can be reached at 801.302.5397.