With the recent media attention on the population’s sugar consumption, studies that have previously been neglected for their claims on the psychological effects of sugar consumption are now gaining more recognition.
New research published earlier this month looked at the effect of consuming sugar and being stressed and the effect these have on our brain. The results for this study concluded that sugar consumption, coupled with stress, helps to trigger comfort eating. So, the more stressed we are, the more sugar we crave and eat. This continued visicous cycle of eating for comfort is contributing to increase our risk of developing chronic health conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
So to answer our initial question - is sugar addictive?
The Science So Far
Due to the nature and implications of this theory, the number of studies looking at the effects of sugar on humans are few and far in between. Hence the data that we have on the psychological implications of sugar consumption are all based on animal studies. A scientific literature review of all the research that has been done on this topic concluded that under certain circumstances these animals did become addicted to sugar and that more research needs to be done to fully assess the extent of this of in humans .
Of the studies conducted on this issue, revealed that when these animals were offered a choice of cocaine, morphine or sugar (in the form of oreo biscuits), these animals always went for the biscuit . What does this say about sugar’s effect on the brain reward systems?
Another study showed that excessive sugar consumption led to the animals experiencing a state similar to that shown to morphine and nicotine dependence . Yet another study showed that after a period of abstinence from sugar, these animals exhibited a greater intake of sugar, due to their previous deprived state .
Current Eating Advice
The current healthy eating guidelines advise that to get the best nutrition, one needs to ensure that 50% of each meal is made up of a variety of carbohydrates. However, whilst these items are not usually associated with being sugary, the biological digestion of these items turns them into sugar and are recognised as such by the brain. An interesting study showed that the brain’s liking and wanting mechanisms were higher after consuming a meal consisting of mostly carbohydrates compared to consuming a high protein meal . This want/liking mechanism operated independently of total energy intake. In other terms, although subjects ate a big meal consisting of carbohydrates, they were still hungry afterwards and wanted more, unlike the subjects that ate a protein-based meal.
Whilst reducing the amount of sugary items consumed in the form of biscuits, confectionary, fizzy drinks etc may help to reduce your cravings, this is not enough if you are going to get rid of those constant hunger feelings and the need for a quick energy fix in the afternoon (usually in the form of a biscuit or a chocolate bar). If you really want to get rid of those sugar cravings, then a rearranging of the macronutrient intake in one’s diet is required to lessen not only the cravings for sugar - but also the feeling of still feeling hungry even if a meal has just been consumed.
Sugar - Kicking the Habit
So how are you expected to make an informed decision that is going to benefit your health?
The Natural Ketosis way of doing things is quite simple. We promote a low-carb, high-protein, moderate-fat diet. Although we are in the same school of thought as Atkins, our approach to diet and lifestyle is different.
On our program we embrace those carbohydrates that are based on dietary fibre rather than simple and/or complex carbohydrates. The difference between these carbohydrates is the way they are digested within the body. By choosing these vegetables and fruits, the essential micronutrient requirements are met whilst ensuring no blood sugar spikes in the progress which will in turn help reduce cravings in between meals for sugary items.
Protein in the diet is also critical as our bodies cannot store protein. Hence, we need a constant supply each day. Our bodies require protein to build muscle and repair any internal damage. Studies keep showing that a high protein diet helps to reduce hunger and control cravings as you feel satiated for longer .
Therefore the Natural Ketosis way is not only about being healthy but about making the right choices.
1. Avena, N.M., Rada, P. & Hoebel, B.G., 2007. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 32(1), pp.20–39.
2. Student-faculty research suggests Oreos can be compared to drugs of abuse in lab rats. 2013. http://ow.ly/wpARN
3. Colantuoni, C. et al., 2002. Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence.Obesity research, 10(6), pp.478–488.
4. Avena, N.M., Long, K.A. & Hoebel, B.G., 2005. Sugar-dependent rats show enhanced responding for sugar after abstinence: evidence of a sugar deprivation effect. Physiology & behavior, 84(3), pp.359–362.
5. Born, J., Martens, M. & Lemmens, S., 2013. Protein v. carbohydrate intake differentially affects liking-and wanting-related brain signalling. British Journal of. Available at: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0007114512001092.