Today, more than 50% of the American population consumes 1/2 pound of sugar a day — that adds up to 180 pounds of sugar a year! In 1700 the average person consumed 4 pounds — in 1800, 18 pounds — in 1900, 90 pounds. Today, sugar is hidden in most commercially processed foods, so if you are eating a lot of that stuff it’s easy to consumer much more than you think you are.
Sugar is addictive. This means that stopping the use of sugar may be difficult and may involve symptoms when it is removed. Addiction causes people to react with physical, psychological and behavioral changes when exposed to the substance.
The mass marketing, and the availability of cheap “good tasting” foods at every corner can make it very difficult for some people to control their eating behavior.
Research indicates that this is not just a lack of self control. It demonstrates that there is an actual neural component to compulsive eating that is similar to that of substance dependence. In light of the increasing awareness of the exploding obesity epidemic in this country, this is an important finding. This science can be used to illustrate to lawmakers how the powerful food industry manipulates and engages susceptible people with advertising and food cues.
It’s no secret that food companies have been doing this for years. But here again (see my post about food coloring and the followup), we now have science to back up what concerned parents and nutritionists have been saying for years.
A report published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs illustrates that many studies have shown that a high number of alcohol-dependent and other drug-dependent individuals have a sweet preference, especially for foods with a high sucrose concentration (refined white sugar).
Additionally, human and animal studies have shown that in some brains, the consumption of sugar-rich foods or drinks precipitates the release of euphoric endorphins and dopamine (the feel good chemicals) within the nucleus accumbens, in a manner similar to the response to some recreational drugs.
Drugs and Sugar Trigger the Same Brain Chemicals for Some
The scientists found that the brain pathways of drug and sugar addiction involve similar neural receptors and neurotransmitters. There has actually been visual documentation of craving, tolerance, withdrawal and sensitization in specific areas in the brain.
Furthermore, there appears to be cross sensitization between sugar addiction and narcotic dependence in some individuals. In the last two decades research has noted that specific genes may underlie the sweet preference in alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals, as well as in the biological children of paternal alcoholics.
Food Companies Know This Research
Food manufactures know about the addictive nature of chemically enhanced and sugary foods! They have known it for years. Each year they introduce more additives to the food supply (approved by the FDA). This is reminiscent of the tobacco companies covering up the facts of the addictive chemicals in tobacco.
We have an obesity epidemic in this country, and doctors, scientists and politicians are suddenly wondering why. The fact is, people MUST stop eating foods laced with additives in order to have any chance of beating the vicious cycle of chemical addiction that leads to obesity.
The addictive nature of these chemicals reach out to include not only alcohol and substance abusers, but they insidiously pull in the average person who eats commercially prepared foods. Sadly, the food supply in this country is so laden with these toxic ingredients, it would take a major overhaul to remove them.
The Addictive Nature of Processed Foods and Sugar
The issue of the addictive nature of processed foods and sugar goes way beyond the obesity problems. Clearly, these chemicals initiate behavioral problems in susceptible individuals. These problems can affect their personalities, drawing them into unhealthy lifestyles.
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