Why Do I Crave (and Eat) So Much Sugar?

It is not like we do not know about sugar. We know all about weight gain, insulin resistance and the risk of developing diabetes, but somehow we cannot stop consuming the sweet stuff.

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), a federally funded program partnered with the National Institute of Health (NIH), says that the increase in diabetes diagnoses is of “epidemic proportions,” yet we still cannot stop eating pound after pound of sugar. We understand that diabetes causes blindness, loss of mobility, kidney disease and more; even so, we voraciously devour candies, sugary drinks, cookies and desserts. Our weight goes up, and we cross our fingers, hoping that we will be the exception — the person who somehow skirts the risks.

At the same time, we condemn smokers. Why do they continue to puff on cigarettes when they know that the behavior is deadly? We condemn alcoholics for continuing to drink even though they can plainly see their lives spiraling downward. We outlaw drugs — after all, drugs create addicts whose medical problems cause disabilities and take a toll on the health care system.

We do all of this while spooning sugar into our coffee and dropping cookies into our brown-bag lunches, oblivious to the irony.

The problem is not really the sugar. We could have small amounts of sugar with no problem. The problem is the amount of sugar most of us consume. We just cannot seem to control ourselves. Worse, food manufactures have made the problem worse by adding sugar (no doubt to please our endless desire for sugar) to many processed foods.

Sugar Addiction

Clearly, a sugar addiction must be at work here. Princeton University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute studied “sugar addicted” mice and noted that, indeed, the mice displayed classic symptoms of addiction: increased tolerance, withdrawal and cravings. Just as drug users and alcoholics build a tolerance to their drugs of choice, people who eat large amounts of sugar build tolerances to dopamine, leptin and insulin. Furthermore, the mice that binged on sugar experienced brain changes. Their excessive sugar consumption caused changes similar to the brain changes caused by heroin addiction.

What Causes Sugar Addiction

When our bodies work properly, insulin tells our body to store fat, and leptin tells the brain to stop eating because we are full. Sugar releases insulin, and fat cells release leptin. In addition to the satiety response, leptin has a second purpose: to inhibit the dopamine response so that eating’s pleasure is cut off.

Since leptin is produced in fat cells, it would seem that obese people — who have an abundance of leptin — would never be hungry. However, this is not so. Increased sugar consumption leads to leptin resistance. When the body becomes resistant, leptin’s message of fullness does not get through.

Leptin’s second chore, turning off dopamine, is also interrupted by sugar. Sugar in the bloodstream causes a release of insulin. Since insulin’s job it to store fat, it circumvents leptin and keeps it from turning off the pleasure chemical, dopamine.

This is volatile situation. Leptin resistance prevents the feeling of fullness, and insulin, which keeps leptin from turning off the pleasure. What’s to stop us from eating? When dopamine floods the brain, sugar consumption is extremely gratifying, even when the body is technically “full.”

Compounding the problem, the more resistant the body is to both leptin and dopamine, the more sugar is needed to achieve the same “high.” This is a recipe for disaster.

Why Do We Fail at Dieting?
We may fail at dieting because we are trying to fix the symptom rather than the cause. When we rapidly lose weight, leptin production drops, telling the brain that we are starving. Naturally, it is difficult to lose weight and keep it off when one is always hungry. Add to the hunger problem the addictive pleasure of out-of-control sugar consumption, and the result is a population on the fast-track to disaster.

Robert H. Lustig, M.D, a neuroendocrinologist and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco wrote Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease in part to explain leptin’s role in weight maintenance. Lustig points out that rapid weight loss suddenly lowers leptin production. If someone is leptin resistant, then the body overreacts to the decrease and screams that it is starving. This is a familiar scenario: a slower metabolism due to an incorrect “starvation” message added to persistent hunger either reverses the weight loss or causes a plateau.

The good news seems so simple: Lustig says that we should first fix the hormone problem, then consider the weight problem. He recommends cutting out added sugars while engaging in moderate, daily exercise. Both sugar reduction and consistent, moderate exercise increase leptin sensitivity.

While reducing sugar intake is never easy, this one change is the key to normalizing hormones and even reversing pre-diabetes. Once the hormones are within normal ranges, the body will become more sensitive to both leptin and insulin. Once you can listen to your body again, your excess weight will begin to disappear.

Now that you know the “why” of excessive sugar consumption, we need contemplate “how” to end it.

How Can I Stop Or Reduce The Amount Of Sugar I consume?

This is a good question, one that is faced by millions of addicts worldwide. Unlike other drugs, however, sugar is acceptable. You will never walk passed a work desk that has a bowl of cocaine on it for sharing, yet a bowl of sweets sits on someone’s desk in nearly every office in America. This acceptance makes sugar addiction difficult to break. Another complicating factor is that food is essential to life. You cannot go “cold turkey” with food. Still, looking at these traditional recovery solutions may help.

Engage in Substitution
Some former addicts are now “exercise junkies.” Many alcoholics are never without a soft drink. Smokers trying to quit tend to chew a lot of gum. Now, there are even pharmaceuticals that help break addictions.

In the same way, sugar addicts may find that substitution and herbal supplements help with the cravings. Much has been said for several substitutions and supplements:
* Fruit — eating fruit substitutes natural sugars for added sugars.
* Moderate exercise — changing your activity may distract from the craving.
* Fiber, protein and fat — all of these fill the stomach and digest slowly, keeping blood sugar stabilized.
* Fermented foods — sour foods like fresh yogurt, kefir (a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains) and homemade sauerkraut distract the palate, killing the sweet craving.
* Hot tea — maybe the sweet craving is rooted in a craving for something cozy and comfortable.
* Supplements — research about many supplements is inconclusive; however, some experts suggest trying chromium, bitter melon, cinnamon, turmeric and ginseng.

Get a Friend To Work With You on Cutting Down on Sugar.
Accountability is a great motivator. You may even want enlist the help of more than one person. Consider announcing and documenting your lifestyle change on a blog or social media.

Provide Yourself with Rewards For Reducing Sugar Intake.
Often we use ‘sweets’ and ‘treats’ as rewards. Reverse the process by providing yourself with rewards for cutting back on sugar intake. Give yourself compliments and, who knows, jewelry, for skipping those extra cookies or a second bowl of ice cream. The best rewards will come with time like weight loss, more energy and improved health.

Changing a Behavior is not East.
Recognize that your habitual behavior is part of the equation. Simple changes may make a big difference:
* Get more sleep. Lack of sleep reduces leptin levels. In addition, sugar is a quick energy booster. Even though a sugar high is followed by a crash, we tend to reach for sugar when we are tired.
* Eat at the table. Pay attention to your food and to your body’s sensations. When we eat standing up or in front of the television, we cannot be sensitive to leptin’s messages.
* Limit dessert to just one serving per week. We tend to crave sweets after each meal because we have programmed ourselves to expect it. Reprogram your mind.
* Examine food labels before buying a product. Often, sugar is an unnecessary additive in processed food. Go with those products that us little or no sugar or similar sweeteners like fructose (which is nothing more than fruit sugar, but sugar is sugar).

Getting off of any addictive substance is extremely difficult. Do not expect to be successful just because you read this information. Do, however, continue to put these lifestyle changes in place until your hormone levels are in the normal range.

As your body becomes more sensitive to leptin and insulin, it will slowly gravitate toward its ideal weight. More importantly, you will have reversed your path toward diabetes, giving yourself the gift of a long, high-quality life.

Copyright Protection

Diet And Nutritional Advice You Will Appreciate …