How to decrease sugar intake and overcome a sugar addiction
The average American consumes 66 pounds of added sugar, per year, if eating the standard American diet; this translates into about 19.5 teaspoons every day. (1) Added sugar is found in processed and packaged foods and is added for a variety of reasons: It improves taste, balances spicy, bitter, and sour components of sauces and marinades, acts as a preservative, and makes certain foods more palatable so people will eat them. Sugar is added to many foods, not just the ones that are intentionally made to be sweet, so it’s easy to eat a decent amount of added sugar in one day without even touching the sweets. Then we have the holidays that are typically entertained around an assortment of sugary foods, drinks, and desserts. After a full month of holiday parties, events, and gifts filled with peppermint bark, Christmas cookies, chocolate truffles, and other rich desserts, you’ll find yourself starting the New Year with a raging sweet tooth, making the health goal you have set for the New Year that much challenging.
Sugars addictive nature has been well researched, and numerous studies are indicating that it’s addicting in the same way as other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin. Documentation both in human and animal studies show that drugs of abuse and certain types of palatable foods like high sugar foods, cause a release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which stimulates the brain’s pleasure or reward centers. Further, clinical studies using brain imagining show the same dopamine receptors lighting up in some obese people after ingesting palatable food as when alcoholics and drug addicts use alcohol or addictive drugs. (2,3) Could sugar be the most popular drug? It appears to be that way given the effects it has on the body, minus the short-term side effects. But what about the long-term side effects?
The ingestion of sugar causes inflammation within the body, and when consumed in excess over an extended period, can lead to many chronic diseases, not to mention tooth decay. Some of the top health problems include increased risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Some less common side effects that are not usually associated with sugar intake include mood swings, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and impaired learning. The effects of sugar are different for everyone. Some people are more sensitive to sugar than others, and in those highly sensitive individuals, significant behavioral changes manifest that can significantly impair their quality of life. In children, the effects that sugar can have can be seen more on the extreme side from tantrums to outbursts and other behavioral and learning problems.
Improve sugar cravings and decrease sugar intake
I'm Meagan Reynolds- a registered dietitian and certified functional medicine practitioner in Nashville, TN who teaches people how to reclaim their health so they can be the brightest version of themselves. My specialty is in thyroid disease and the many symptoms associated with it. I'm passionate about helping my clients find the root cause of their symptoms and supporting them on their healing journey.