Sugar and Addiction

It’s no secret that we love sweet things. The average American consumes roughly 66 pounds of sugar each year. It’s become such a prevalent part of our culture that it’s by and large people’s choice for breakfast. The days of bacon and eggs are long gone. It’s not uncommon for Americans to choose a doughnut and coffee (with more sugar) as their typical breakfast. Breakfast restaurants advertise what looks more like cake platters than a traditional breakfast, as you can see by the picture we chose to accompany this post. 

Some health journals have offered up the claim that sugar is largely as addictive as cocaine. And, given the signs of addiction: withdrawal symptoms, immediately craving it upon waking up, and improvement in mood when consuming it, it’s hard to say otherwise.

Where did this addiction come from though? We were always hooked on sugar? Human beings have always had an affinity for sweet things but the extent to which we’re getting it now is by and large a new phenomena. Human beings that first walked the Earth had to deal with some pretty harsh conditions in terms of feeding themselves. They didn’t always have food readily available and spent many a days in a fast. When they were able to track down meat, though, they devoured these animals as much as possible. This provided them with some calories but as we know protein and fat can only provide so much of an insulin response. The chances of surviving winters were really slim to none for those early humans that didn’t have any extra padding such as the animals did. The process of hibernation was very much something early humans would undergo in order to survive. This meant they had to find what would provide that “fluff” before winter wiped out any and all carbohydrates. This meant gorging on any fruits and vegetables they could find. Our bodies adapted to use excess sugar as a means of survival. The problem now, however, is that no one thinks about “surviving” the winter. We all just eat sugar whenever we get the urge and boy do we get the urge.

The effect sugar has on our brain is very much like that of opioids. Dopamine fires off and the reward system in our brain lights up. It has become quite evident that people need to begin to discuss sugar along the same likes of alcohol and other addictive substances. We must recognize that with modern times and the lack of need for “survival” our bodies needs have changed. We no longer need the “fluff”. We can no longer eat as though nothing has changed.