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  • Writer's pictureDr Tracey Evans

Sugar Addicts - Chasing The High

Sugar addicts are chasing their sugar hits harder than ever before! Just like a drug addict, with time more and more substance is needed to scratch the itch. Even then, it is only temporary and so the cycle continues to unfold dragging down every single person affected into a life of misery and poor health.

It is all well and good telling people to change what they eat, but the environment needs to change for the better too. It is like leaving a drug addict in a pharmacy unsupervised! I do not say this lightly, I appreciate there are differences BUT how big? Drugs and sugar both activate similar pathways in the brain which involve the reward circuitry.

The Sugar Crisis

More and more people are struggling to control how much sugar they eat, it is having a huge impact on the mental health of so many people and YET food producers continue to push out highly processed foods full of sugar, fat and salt that contributes to the obesity crisis. Bright pink doughnuts that assault the senses before you have even registered you have seen them and the smell of the bakery causes the tummy to growl!

You only have to look around the stores and fast-food outlets to see what is on offer and as Christmas just passed, even a popular brand of burger was Christmas-iffied, making it look more glamorous. And yet within weeks these stores are marketing low-fat products, cereal bars, ‘high’ protein products with a view to supporting everyone’s new year's resolutions — for all of 5 minutes until Valentine’s Day marketing appears, oh wait! It already has…. Next stop Easter …

And THEREIN lies the problem, nothing changes year in and year out. We are getting fatter as obesity rates climb, diabetes cases are rising, dementia, cancer, heart disease and other conditions associated with fat gain continue to be out of control. So at what point do we stop and think, this HAS GOT to change??

Bring Forth Diabetes (Type 2)

How many people really know the damage that processed foods are doing to their health? refined carbohydrates, especially in combination with unhealthy fats, are ‘poison’ to the body when eaten outside of a balanced diet. Let me elaborate with some science:

  1. Refined sugar requires little digestion and causes a rapid blood sugar spike

  2. Insulin is released to drive sugar into cells for energy and unused sugars converted and stored, in fat cells

  3. Blood sugar levels then drop below normal (because insulin did it’s job of protecting cells/organs/nerves from damage by too much glucose in the blood)

  4. But, this causes low blood sugar levels which leads to feelings of hunger, to encourage food uptake, to normalise blood sugars. You may recognise this as sugar cravings …that sudden and urgent urge to eat something sweet

  5. Sugary food is eaten, insulin is released and so you start the cycle all over again

This is why the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want. This process drives the conversion of more and more sugars into fats, for fat storage. Overtime, this leads to increased fat gain as we are seeing globally. Then …the insulin system becomes dysfunctional, more sugar starts hanging around in blood and starts to damage nerves for example those in the feet and eyes, organs such as the kidneys are damaged …these are all symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes (type 2) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, dementia and cancer.

Sugar ‘Addiction’

The added kicker: factor in the psychological ‘addiction’ — the brain is seeking that reward sugary foods give it, you know that temporary release of stress, the sugar hit! BUT, you don’t get the same hit that you used to, you have the cravings BUT need more and more of these foods to get the same hit from the sugar.

Food producers know that the combination of high-sugar and high-fat foods are ‘addictive’ and contributing to the global obesity crisis. I guess you can argue, supply meets demand BUT is it not about time, we started kicking back a bit more? Should food producers be held more accountable?

Is more education required?

Because something is going drastically wrong and this is the scariest part of all: Not only are we getting fatter, but diet and lifestyles are altering our genetics (a process called epigenetics) and these are being passed on to our children — did you know that?

In essence, unhealthy diets and lifestyles are putting our children at risk of disease before they have even been born! So if we put this into perspective, it surely is only going to get worse, right? It is pretty depressing stuff, isn’t it?

Do not despair

Some tips to get your started:

  • Eat foods that are NOT processed

  • Do not eat foods with ‘added’ sugar

  • Check the labels of everything! There is even sugar in sliced cooked chicken! There are 65 different names for sugar, this makes it easier for the food producers to mask the levels of sugar in products

  • Eat whole and more complex carbohydrates, oats, rye, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, quinoa

  • Eat foods rich in fibre, this slows the rise of blood sugars, keeps you feeling fuller for longer and is great for the gut!

  • Include essential fatty acids in the diet, omega 3 & 6 - important for heart and brain health! Find them in oily fish, seeds, nuts and plant oils.

  • Eat good sources of protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

  • Eat plenty of whole vegetables and fruits for nutrition, natural sweetness and plenty of additional health benefits

If you are eating sugary foods to manage stress and anxiety, reach out to me and find out how I can help you better manage your stress. Try and break that cycle and bring forth better health and reduce the risk of dementia, heart disease and cancer.

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