More and more research is supporting the fact that sugar and carbs are as addicting as drugs and as difficult to quit for some people. I came across this quote the other day: “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!” and it’s perfect. We crave sugar because we are stressed, sad, looking for pleasure and for energy and motivation. And we self-medicate with it in the same way as drugs, caffeine and tobacco.
This paper called Obesity: The emerging neurobiology of calorie addiction was published just a few days ago:
“The increased availability and consumption of highly palatable foods is the major factor behind the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in developed countries.”
“Progress has been made in recent years in understanding the neurobiological underpinnings for this preference” for sucrose: “sucrose activates dopamine neurons in a region of the brain called the striatum, and the resulting release of dopamine is associated with pleasure.”
“Moreover, the repeated consumption of high levels of sucrose can create a cycle of continued overconsumption—even compulsive eating—in order to recapture the initial feelings of pleasure. This is similar in many ways to drug abuse or addiction, and also involves some of the same signalling pathways within the body”
This dopamine/pleasure mechanism is just one way that leads to sugar addiction. This Oct 2013 paper in Nutrition, Neurobiologic basis of craving for carbohydrates says this:
“There is a relationship between emotional disorders, obesity, and craving for carbohydrates”
“Research on the basis of carbohydrate craving is varied, but may be grouped into five main areas: the serotonergic system, palatability and hedonic response [i.e. pleasure], the motivational system, stress response systems, and gene-environment interaction”
Last week I posed this question on my facebook page: “no sugar or sugar in moderation? what’s your vote? I say NO sugar! Do you think that’s too harsh and too unrealistic?” I was referring to ANY sweetener other than fresh fruit.
Here are some of the comments my tribe offered:
- I’d say in moderation. However I’m trying to reduce my view of moderation over time.”
- I was totally sweetener-free for a long time so I know how that feels for me. I’ve been experimenting with raw honey I seem to do fine with it “in moderation” (i.e. even a little bit each day is fine – although I don’t make baked goods so I’m not using large quantities.)
- I seem at present to be incapable of moderation with sugar. So for me none at all might be the way I need to go. Humans developed over many thousands of years with just the sweetness of unprocessed fruits and maybe some honey now and then. Our culture’s idea of what “moderate” even means in regards to processed sugars is highly skewed.
- Zero is way too hard for me but everyone is different
- I say: a little bit of everything is just perfect!
- Zero sugar is too rigid for me…I don’t think any of my clients say no to sugar 100%…I do avoid white and brown processed sugar ~95% of the time but will eat it when at someone’s home made with love. Every day, I use maple syrup to sweeten teas and in baked goods.
- I don’t think a little bit of natural sugar is bad at all; but only just a little bit.
- I’d say it’s ok for someone else [the zero sugar]! For me, I have to have a little here and there – just like bread. However, it’s a fraction of what it used to be. Maybe at some point I can whittle down from there.
Very few agreed with me about zero sugar. Here is what they said:
- I’m with you! it is realistic as I have given up sugar and all artificial sweeteners.
- NO sugar – Dr so astounded that I’ve brought my numbers down so much after wanting to give me meds for years. She said no meds would’ve brought my numbers down as much as I’ve done with diet and especially NO sugar or carbs.
Here are some of my thoughts: “Moderation” has quite a big range for some people and I see it going out of the window when it comes to baked goods. I see many recipes calling for pretty large amounts of maple syrup of honey. I recently heard Tana Amen, BSN, RN and author of The Omni Diet speak about sugar and crack cocaine in the same sentence and she said: “they are both addicting. We’d never do crack in moderation so why do sugar in moderation!?” I agree!
A friend and I were at a recent celiac function that had tons of gluten-free treats – all loaded with carbs and sugar and not healthy at all even though they were gluten-free. We had no desire to have any of the treats. That’s how we should feel! Zero sugar should be easy!
You won’t crave sugar or even feel the need for a little bit or an occasional treat if you have balanced biochemistry and are not stressed, no nutritional deficiencies (low zinc can be a factor) and are eating to control blood sugar.
You won’t be defensive when asked about it and you won’t feel deprived when you do go without it. You won’t feel that you need just a little. You also won’t have to white-knuckle it and use willpower.
Where do you stand? No sugar or sugar in moderation? And do you think that zero sugar is too harsh and too unrealistic? Do you think addiction plays a role? Are you white-knuckling it or can you take it or leave it?
Do you need help to get to zero sugar consumption? Here are some resources for you.
- Check out these chapters in my book “The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings”: eat real food, blood sugar balancing and the amazing amino acids.
- Stay tuned for the upcoming release of my homestudy program “Amazing Amino Acids for Emotional Eating.” Listen to me present on upcoming calls and tele-summits as I share some of the highlights of this wonderful 6 week program.