Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Is Sugar Like Drugs?

Recent evidence suggests that Sugar and Drugs may have a striking similarity in the way they affect our brains and bodies.

Withdrawal is commonly seen among individuals quitting drugs, and, you may be surprised to learn, sugar as well. From a neurological perspective, when you consume sugar, your brain releases dopamine (a neurotransmitter). This makes you feel elated and dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior, namely reinforcing ones which make us feel pleasurable.

According to a recent New York Post article, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have discovered that after long-term abuse of sugar consumption, the levels of dopamine fall, causing us to crave and seek a higher consumption of the substance while trying to maintain that elated feeling.

Studies show that Sugar affects learning and memory, as well as contributing to anxiety and depression 

One study from 2012 has already shown that a diet high in fructose (or sugar) hinders learning and memory by slowing down the brain. In rats, this even caused damaged synaptic activity - affecting brain cell communication. Insulin typically has a protective effect on the synaptic connections between brain cells to help them form stronger memories, but when these levels are lowered from excess sugar consumption, cognitive effects are observed. 

Sugar has also been linked to depression and anxiety. When levels of blood sugar fall, this can cause a sugar crash where you can experience irritability, mood swings and fatigue which can lead to feeling anxious and depressed. Frequently activating serotonin (which is what happens when we consume sugar, specifically in large quantities) acts as a mood-booster and removing sugars and carbohydrates can deplete the limited amounts of serotonin in our brains, contributing to depression symptoms.

In the most extreme cases. it been observed that obese children's brains are much more responsive to sugar, parts of their brains signifying "food reward" are highly activated. This creates dangerous circuitry to predispose them to crave and seek out even more sugar than average throughout their lives.

Processed foods and added sugars account for a massive increase in global sugar consumption

It's easy to see how all of these factors can spell a recipe for disaster for future generations as well as current ones, creating a world-wide health pandemic. In the United States, the average consumption of sugar is over five times that which is recommended. It is highly likely that we all experience these effects to some degree.

In many ways, it is a sobering realization that our brain's reward response and addiction cycles to Sugar are very much one and the same to those reacting when abusing drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. Society, as a whole, has been much more accepting of this addiction for decades to drive company profits at the expense of the population's health.

If you think you have any addiction (drug, alcohol, cigarette, sugar or otherwise) please seek help from your physician and family. 

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