Sugar is a part of our daily lives. From the coffee we drink to the slices of bread we eat during breakfast, a lot of the food we eat contains this sweet-tasting carbohydrate. And while it is impossible and unhealthy to cut sugar out of our diet, it may be advisable to cut down on it as much as possible. Are you eating too much sugar? You might be hooked on it.
A new research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has shown that it may be possible to develop an addiction to sugar. Tests done on lab rats showed that when presented with a choice between sugar and cocaine, the rats would choose sugar. While you would think that lab rats are very different from humans, they are actually very similar. According to the Koshland Science Museum, rats share a staggering 90 per cent of genetics with humans, making them one of the most accurate ways to test out the human psyche. However, that 10 per cent should still not be overlooked, so more research should be done.
New research published in the PubMed has shown that sugar may be even more unhealthy than previously thought. Sugar makes us obese. While it does give us a little bit of energy, it does not help in producing energy and causes your energy to regenerate slower. Not only that, but they may also use up nutrients from other foods that have been eaten, as well as from body stores, to become energy. Eating too much sugar may also cause a kind of ‘internal starvation’ (due to increased insulin resistance) leading to further hunger signals in the body. This, in turn, causes you to eat more, making you more susceptible to obesity.
According to a report in The Guardian, the lead author of the review, James DiNicolantonio at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, says that, unlike salt, sugar has no “aversion signal”. “Salt taste receptors will ‘flip’ when you’ve had too much, but this doesn’t happen with sugar – so we have a built-in safety mechanism that protects us from overconsuming salt but not sugar,” he says. “People can eat an entire bag of cookies or endless bars of chocolate and still want more.” So, while the debate is still ongoing about if sugar can be considered “addictive”, it does not take much effort to overeat food that is high in sugar.
Too much sugar can also have adverse side-effects in the long run, such as causing Alzheimer’s disease. A study, published in the journal Diabetologia, studied 5,100 people over 10 years to observe the effects of sugar on their cognition. They found that the cognition of those who had high blood sugar declined faster than those with normal blood sugar. Even if they were not diabetic, this trend was present.
But, just because you stop eating a lot of sugar when you get older, does not mean you are safe. There are also short-term effects that have been observed for a long time. Researchers from University College London (UCL) looked at the sugar consumption of 5,000 men and 2,000 women who participated in the Whitehall II study in the 1980s. They found that men who ate more than 67g of sugar a day had an added 23 per cent chance of suffering depression after 5 years than those who consumed the minimal amount of sugar, less than 39.5g.
While a sweet tooth craving is hard to kick, it is important to remember that to control your sugar intake. Even though more studies are needed, it seems obvious that too much of any food is bad for you. It is also important to look out for any hidden sugar sources that you need to account for. If needed, try a sugar substitute, healthier option or a nutrition tracker like MyFitnessPal to keep yourself in check.
By Muhd Farhan