Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sugar - Drug or Condiment?

Sugar.  Oh how we have a love affair with this sweet substance.  From a very early age we begin to crave sugar.  We love the taste, we love how it temporarily makes us feel and we certainly love anything mixed with this sweetening substance.  Some would argue that sugar is just as addictive as any drug or alcoholic substance and there seems to be scientific proof to back this claim up.  So, is sugar a condiment or an addictive substance?



I believe the answer is "yes" to both.  Yes sugar is a wonderful condiment used to sweeten up our coffee and tea and nearly everything else we can think of.  But it should be used sparingly.  Too much of this sugary goodness and it can lead to all sorts of problems.  If you look closely at the food labels of many of the products available in the supermarkets today you will most definitely find sugar as a main ingredient.  It is everywhere and is in just about everything.  It is no wonder that diabetes and obesity are prevalent to epidemic proportions in our society.  Our bodies simply can't handle the sugar load we are putting into it and it gets stored as fat cells until the body needs more glucose.  Too much of this sugary goodness, and it can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and the end result of diabetes.

Sugar also has the amazing ability to cause opiate and dopamine activity in the reward centers of the brain much like other drugs of abuse like cocaine, heroin and alcohol.  So, "yes", sugar can also be labeled loosely as a drug.  Or maybe not so loosely.  Sugar is very addictive.  As the body consumes massive amounts of sugar it starts to crave more.  Sugar also has the ability to shut off the leptin response in the brain.  Essentially this means the brain doesn't see all the fat stored in the body and thinks that it is starving.  It triggers a response that you need to eat even when you don't need to.  This in turn causes you to consume more and more, leading to weight gain and other health issues.  For certain individuals this type of brain response can lead to a full blown addiction.  These individuals get extremely strong cravings for sugar and are unable to quit or reduce their consumption despite the negative health consequences.

So, what should one do in the face of the great sugar dilemma?  The best thing you can do is really watch your sugar intake and make sure to read ALL of your food labels.  Even in foods you wouldn't think of or suspect sugar can be loaded in there.  If you think you are struggling with a sugar addiction and can't seem to beat it don't be afraid to talk with someone about it.  As a certified health coach I see clients on a regular basis that need help getting past their sugar addictions.  It is not an easy thing to tackle and you should never feel like you have to do it alone.  Best rule of thumb - all things in moderation, and in sugars case - all things in minimum moderation.

What do you think?  Is sugar a harmless condiment or an addictive substance?  Leave a comment and let me know your take on sugar.      



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