Can Sugar Be More Addictive Than Cocaine?

Too much of anything can be bad for your health, sugar included. 

While a healthy diet contains a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar (in fruits and vegetables, for example), the problem is that we’re chronically consuming much more added sugar in processed foods. 

So, what happens when the brain is exposed to excessive amounts of sugar as is the case with the Standard American Diet (SAD)? In this case, more is definitely not better.

Excess sugar consumption has long been linked to weight gain, and the development of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Studies of long-term diabetics also confirm progressive brain damage leading to deficits in learning, memory, motor speed, and other cognitive functions.

The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the human body. In fact, brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body. This energy is derived from glucose (blood sugar). Sugar is not the brain’s enemy, added sugar is!

Your Brain On Sugar

In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control.

A 2013 study found that frequent exposure to high glucose levels diminishes mental capacity, as higher HbA1c levels have been associated with a greater degree of brain shrinkage and decreased cognitive performance. Even in those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function. And, when it comes to Alzheimer’s, researchers found that higher brain glucose levels may mean an increase in severity of the disease.

Worst yet, sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. Numerous studies on brain activity have provided evidence supporting the idea that sweet foods alter the brain’s reward system to produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving the loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.

Over time, a diminished reward response in the brain drives to consumption of greater amounts of added sugar and a progressively worsening addiction to low-nutrient foods rich in sugar, salt, and fat.

DID YOU KNOW: A 2007 study found that found that “intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals.” The authors of this study suggest that the excess stimulation of the reward center of the brain by sugar-rich diets, such as SAD, would generate an abnormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction. 

What You Can Do to Break This Vicious Cycle

Any sugar added in your food is detrimental. You may avoid the consequences by satisfying your sweet tooth with fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of the best choices are:

  • Citrus fruits – reduces inflammation and has high vitamin C
  • Dark leafy greens – spinach, kale, and swiss chard are packed with folate, iron, and even protein
  • Berries – acai, blackberries, and blueberries provide rich antioxidants and vitamins that fight off infections
  • Garlic and ginger – adding garlic to your meals will help protect your immune system when cold and flu season hits. It’s one of the most natural antivirals. Ginger also reduces inflammation in the body and it great for digestion.

So, next time you’re tempted to reach for a cookie or that last doughnut on the tray, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Natural sugars still taste sweet and provide the fuel you need to maintain optimal brain health.

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Distress or Chronic Stress

Distress or chronic stress is uncontrollable, prolonged, or overwhelming stress. Once stress becomes distress, the body manages to survive though not always to thrive. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the body’s immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should. In a state of distress, the cells of the immune system (and other body systems) are unable to respond normally and produce levels of inflammation which increase the risk of further health issues.

Homeostasis

Homeostasis refers to your body’s ability to regulate itself and maintain a comparatively stable internal environment despite external and internal conditions and events.

Your body is designed to be in a state of homeostasis, where all the systems within are functioning optimally.

Stressor

Stressor is anything that is perceived by the body as challenging, threatening or demanding.

Health Story

In the context of My Wellbeing Compass, your “Health Story” represents the combination of your dis-eases, conditions, symptoms and the history that binds them together. It is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Unearthing and resolving the root causes at the core of your Health Story is the only way to truly rewrite this Story.

Natural Self-repair Mechanisms

The body is made up of intelligent, living cells that are dynamically connected. They communicate and just know what to do and when to do it in any given situation. They grow, replicate, repair, and age. Every 90 days, the body has a new bloodstream; every year, it manufactures billions of new cells; colon cells refresh every 4 days; the skin is entirely regenerated every 2-3 weeks; white blood cells regenerate in about 1 year; the liver renews itself at least once every 2 years; and the skeleton replaces its cells entirely every 10 years.

You are an incredibly complex, interactive, and dynamic living organism that is well-equipped with self-repair mechanisms that can fight infections, eliminate toxins, fix damaged DNA, destroy cancer cells, and even slow down aging.

This natural self-healing ability (also referred to as cellular intelligence or body’s innate intelligence) explains spontaneous remissions from seemingly “incurable” diseases.

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