In my last post I explained about the downfalls with our love for sugar and suggested we should give it up all together. In a reply to this article laurabdeakin stated that “it is a huge problem for society, but to cut it out completely is definitely something we can’t expect. Companies won’t stop producing delicious products to seduce us and society won’t stop eating them.” Are we really under the thumb of the big companies and can we resist the seduction of sugary treats. Are we really addicted to sugar?
I thought while writing this I should give up sugar myself. Two days in I woke up with a huge headache, craving sugar, no energy, was twitchy and as my friend later told me very moody. I was definitely feeling worse for wear and needed a snickers ASAP. I continued for another 5 days and after that I realised I was no longer craving any sugary treats and my energy levels had returned to normal.
In just a short time I had notice such a massive difference in my behaviour towards sugar. At the start it was a real struggle to stay away and I showed signs of withdrawal very similar to that of a drug addict. As the time went on it became easier to stay away from the sugar and the withdrawal symptoms subsided.
My ‘sugar neurons’ had not been stimulated and were craving the stimulation they normally received on a daily bases. These neurons had been over sensitised on my normal diet and when the stimulation had ceased they had to revert back to their old sensitivity. This is why after 7 days The symptoms of withdrawal had subsided and my craving were nonexistent.
A study found that “sugar bingeing can produce behaviours that are similar to those observed in drug dependent rats”. (Avena et al. 2009) These behaviours include anxiety, teeth chattering, tremors and head shakes when there is limited sugar. Although there is not a general consensus from scientist to say it is addictive there is some damning evidence to support it and there is no one that will publicly say it isn’t.
This addiction has come from our ancestors and their need for high levels of energy. Our senses appeal to sweeter foods because in history food was scarce and we needed the riper fruit which contained more sugar. A professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard and the author of “The Evolution of the Human Head” Daniel Lieberman said that “sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving” (Lieberman, 2012) and the ones that became addicted had a better chance of survival.
Sugar changes the dopamine receptors (pleasure receptors) in our brain so that at first we experience a lot of pleasure but as the addiction continues the receptor stops being as efficient and we need more stimulus (Benton, 2010). This response is the same as our body’s response to cocaine.
Sugar also changes the leptin molecule in our brain so we can not tell when we have had enough.
This video fully explains the effect sugar has on our nervous system including the over stimulation of our cells to the chemical changes that occur in the leptin molecule. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=163&v=Xn1cI8FNU6M
This leads us to get a ‘high’ from a large sugar intake and promotes further ingestion. Removal of this stimulus from the rats in this study found that they became aggressive, depressed and their body temperature decreased. These symptoms are the same as drug withdrawal in rats.(Lenoir et al., 2007)
It seems the big food companies know all this and are using it to their advantage by selling us things we nutritionally don’t need but are addicted to. Paul Van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam’s Health Service said sugar is “most addictive substance of modern times.” The big food companies are selling us an epidemic and we can’t buy in quick enough. As the evidence suggests sugar is addictive and society is hooked.
Avena, N., Rada, P. and Hoebel, B. (2009). Sugar and Fat Bingeing Have Notable Differences in Addictive-like Behavior. Journal of Nutrition, [online] 139(3), pp.623-628. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2714381/ [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016]..
Benton, D. (2016). The plausibility of sugar addiction and its role in obesity and eating disorders. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056521 [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
Colantuoni, C., Rada, P., McCarthy, J., Patten, C., Avena, N., Chadeayne, A. and Hoebel, B. (2002). Evidence That Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake Causes Endogenous Opioid Dependence. Obesity Research, [online] 10(6), pp.478-488. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2002.66/full [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
Fortuna, J. (2016). The Obesity Epidemic and Food Addiction: Clinical Similarities to Drug Dependence. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, [online] 44(1), pp.56-63. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.2012.662092?src=recsys [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L. and Ahmed, S. (2007). Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE, [online] 2(8), p.e698. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1931610/ [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
Lieberman, D. (2012). Evolution’s Sweet Tooth. The New York Times, [online] pp.45-48. Available at: http://faculty.nelson.wisc.edu/middlecamp/documents/Evolution%E2%80%99s%20Sweet%20Tooth%20-%20NYTimes%20June2012.pdf [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
UCTV: Prime, (2012). The Skinny on Obesity (Ep. 04): Sugar – A Sweet Addiction. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn1cI8FNU6M [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].
Edited by Carli Windridge on 6/5/16