We all have our addictions. Mine is coffee. My colleague Susan’s, however, is Sugar (with a capitol S). Midday, she gets overwhelmed by the uncontrollable urge to shove anything sweet in her mouth, be it chocolate bars, cookies or candy. And while Susan is good about curbing her cravings on most days, she has the occasional binge. Which can make you stop to wonder: What makes the addiction to junk food different from the addiction to something like drugs? A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says not much.
The research shows that foods with high sugar content, like cake and soda, trigger a region in the brain called the nucleus accumbens—which is commonly recognized as “ground zero” for conventional addictions, like cocaine or even gambling. With that said, over-consumption of foods that spike blood sugar levels may not just be considered gluttony, but a plain old biological addiction.
The worst part is that even if you aren’t like Susan and seeking out sugary foods, a lot of common “healthy” foods have hidden sugar in them. Things like sweetened yogurt and even pasta sauce can light up this special brain region and cause you to crave more food. “There are 600,000 processed foods in the marketplace, 80 percent of which have added hidden sugar,” says author of the The Blood Sugar Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman, in a recent article. “Sugar is the core ingredient used by the food industry to make bad ingredients (processed flour and chemicals) taste good.”
Want to find out if you are secretly addicted to sugar? Here are the five clues Dr. Hyman says are telltale signs:
- You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.
- You worry about cutting down on certain foods.
- You feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
- You have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food issues and yet keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.
- You need more and more of the foods you crave to experience any pleasure or reduce negative emotions.
If you can relate to any of the above, you might want to try his sugar detox. A cleanse can also help reroute your body and kill cravings.
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