By: Almie Jane P. Catulay
University of the Philippines Visayas
Sugar is utilized by the body to get carbohydrates as an energy resource. Also, consumption of foods that raise sugar level is highly appealing yet addictive than any other flavour.
Nowadays, most people prefer to eat sweet foods to reduce sadness or to break out from stress, but, it is a big threat to human health because such higher rate of consumption gives higher possibility of getting sick. Possible risks include poor memory formation, learning disorders, depression, chronic heart diseases and the most prominent one, diabetes- which is one of the causes of death in the country.
Health related issues can be acquired by the continuous over-consumption of sweets. Thus, the best way to minimize, if not to prevent a very powerful addiction is to practice “complete abstinence”.
Sweet Addiction: Effects of becoming a Sweet Addict
Sweet crystalline sugars are used in the body to obtain carbohydrates as an energy resource. It is a fact that consumption of foods that raise sugar levels are extremely appealing than any other flavours. Of course, sugar is highly addictive to a person’s taste buds. Another factor that attracts the individuals is the manner on how the food with sugar is presented. As long as there is chocolate on a plate, continuous consumption of it cannot be helped. Nowadays, people are truly addicted to sugar in order to use it as a form of self-medication to temporarily boost their mood and energy. Excessive sugar intake in our diet cannot only make us gain weight, but can also negatively affect our overall health. Aside from that, current news about these particular effects on our body is coming on flash in every newspapers, televisions and radios. It is likely to be a threat to human population.
The Importance of Sugar
In order to achieve a healthy balanced diet, one has to choose a variety of foods in moderation. According to the EU’s independent scientific advisory body (EFSA), 45-60% of one’s daily energy intake comes from carbohydrates, including starch and sugar. These are considered to be the most important fuel in the brain as well as in providing the energy needed for the bodies’ organs to function. Sugar, as a typical carbohydrate, acts as a natural preservative. Adding sugar concentration in a food product can lengthen its shelf life. In contrast, if a jam with reduced sugars content will need to be stored in the fridge. No single ingredient can replace sugar in foods and replicate its many functions. Thus, replacing sugar often results in the use of additional food additives.
How Sugar Affects the Brain and Behavior
Behavioral impacts like lack of discipline and due to individual’s overwhelming need similar to “shabu” can alter one’s healthy lifestyle. High sugar content of a product can be referred as “High glycemic foods.” (Hyman, M., 2008)
High glycemic foods trigger a special region in the brain, which is “ground zero” for conventional addiction such as gambling or drug use, the “Nucleus Accumbens” (NA). It involves a process of which is based chiefly on two essential neurotransmitters: “dopamine,” promoting desire and pleasure; and “serotonin,” whose effects include satiety and inhibition. As an effect, many overweight and pre-diabetic or diabetic individuals exhibit a similar biological addiction to sugar via NA stimulation. Thus, its addictive potentials are referenced to “binging, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization”. These behavioural effects were said to be related to neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur during addiction to drugs. Neural adaptations included changes in dopamine and opioid receptor binding, enkephalin mRNA expression and dopamine and acetylcholine release in the nucleus accumbens. Brain changes occur like those of getting off drugs.
Nicole Avena, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, has shown in her lab experiments using rats with how overeating of palatable foods (like sugar) can produce changes in the brain and behaviour that resemble addiction. In humans, just seeing pictures of sweet milkshakes triggered brain effects like those seen in drug addicts. It was strongest in women whose answers showed they were more hooked on eating.
Consumption of Sweet Foods
Sweet addiction is a term used to describe a natural occurrence of eating sweets again and again. Sweet addicts can be defined as habitual sugar user. From palatable pastries to halo-halo, ice creams, fruit juices, cakes, soft drinks, and dark chocolates, these are the sweet foods that world definitely cannot live without. Indeed, there are considered bad effects of over-consumption of sugar like overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders, and depression. These effects are linked to a problem that is only beginning to be better understood: what our chronic intake of added sugar is doing to our brains.
Limiting the daily sugar consumption varies with gender. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), foods with high sugar level should be 7% or less on a daily calorie intake—comprising 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men. Hence, due to increasing health risks brought about by excessive sugar intake, the World Health Organization has recently recommended that added sugars should be at maximum of 10 percent of the total calorie intake per day.
Effects of Overconsumption of Sugar
Every year, sugar consumption increases due to the rising demand of the commodity. Sugar can cause people to lose control over their consumption. Effects of over-consumption of sugar include overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders, and depression. Aside from that, eating too much sweet foods and uncontrolled lifestyles are the major contributing factors to increasing rates of obesity. Sugar level in the blood is affected by “high glycemic foods” that can be addictive thus, causing the quickest blood sugar level rise. In fact, people are becoming obese due to uncontrollable craving of these kinds of foods and more likely, can be prone to diseases, mostly Diabetes type 2. Studies have observed that improper eating habits and less exercise cause the prevalence of protein energy malnutrition, Vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anemia and iodine deficiency disorders, and increasing cases of overweight children, which leads to increase risks to cardiovascular, and lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, hypertension, among others. Children could succumb to excessive sugar content, causing energy imbalance; the promise of a more palatable tang – sugary, that is – is dismissible.
Five Clues of Addiction
Here are five symptoms of a person addicted to sweets: (1) due to uncontrollable cravings, an individual consume certain foods even if he is not hungry; (2) one that doesn’t worry about cutting down on certain foods; (3) a person feels sluggish or fatigued from overeating, (4) one can have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food issues and yet keep eating the way he does despite the negative consequences; and (5) an individual need more and more of the foods he crave to experience any pleasure or reduce negative emotions (Luwig, D., 2004).
Prior to that, the best way of helping an individual not to overly crave for sweets is to simply avoid processed sweet products and satisfy one’s sweet tooth with fruits instead. Well, this is associated with “complete abstinence,” which is the only reliable way for true addicts to overcome an addiction. The sweet truth is that it is really the time for us to be aware. Take a look on our health condition and protect ourselves from addictive substances, including sugar by having a controllable healthy lifestyle.
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