Your body on sugar is similar to some of the most addicting drugs, says contributing research in a 2012 article in the journal Nature. Sugar, not only makes us fat; it is a toxic substance that have lasting effects on the brain and body systems. Many of us have heard this all before, but we don’t know exactly how it all happens, so we shrug it off and give into those cupcakes staring you down.
Let’s first start with your brain on sugar:
The sweet tooth bites and the brain sends signals that convince you to react. By why does it even happen?
Sugar fuels every cell of the brain – and you often associate sugar with a reward. And it is. It lights up the same chemical of the brain as other drugs – Dopamine – which is the “reward” chemical. This release of dopamine reinforces the desire for more sugar while another key chemical releases – Serotonin– the “feel good ” chemical. This produces that “natural high” that we associate with the experience of devouring that cupcake. Between these two chemicals a cyclical reaction is keeping the brain wanting more.
Your teeth on sugar:
It’s no surprise your dentist tells you to steer clear of those cupcakes. However, sugar is actually not your pearly whites worst nightmare, but the bacteria lurking around them. Streptococcus mutans, is a bacteria that feeds on sugar for energy , and when they get what they want, the by-product is a harmful acid that destroys the calcium coating of your teeth. This deterioration is what makes those pearly whites susceptible to the cavities the dentist warns you about.
Your blood on sugar – the highs and the lows:
Now that you have reacted to the sugar craving and eaten the cupcake your blood sugar spikes. Sugar is a carbohydrate that when digested is quickly turned into glucose. Please don’t get confused and assume glucose is the culprit. Fruits, vegetables and dairy contain glucose, but they also contain fiber and proteins that help slow the blood spiking.
To move the glucose out of the bloodstream and now into your cells for energy the pancreas with release insulin, a hormone. As a result the blood sugar levels will drop – this rapid change is what leaves you feeling lethargic (aka the “sugar coma”) – needing more sugar to reach that “high again.
Your skin on sugar:
After the sugar has entered your bloodstream it will attach to proteins through a process called glycation. Collagen is the most common protein in the body, and responsible for keeping the skin firm and vibrant. Glycation of the collagen cells over time can slow the process of skin regeneration leaving the skin brittle, dry, discolored.
Your heart on sugar:
Sugar is not acting alone inside that cupcake. Packed inside most sugary treats are also saturated fats and trans fats. The leading high-risk ingredients leading to heart disease. The average American consumes more than 3 ounces, or more than 20 teaspoons, of sugar per day. According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, added sugars should be limited to 8 teaspoons per day, and less than 2 teaspoons per day for people with high blood pressure or genetic history of heart disease.
Other important lasting effects of sugar on the body:
Overtime the vicious cupcake cycle (AKA over consumption of sugar) can cause persistent high blood glucose (sugar) and damage your kidneys. This can lead to a condition called diabetic neuropathy.
From the expert author on diabetes, John Ngijseh:
High blood glucose levels (sugar) lead to the kidneys filtering too much blood. The result of this is that the blood vessels walls become thickened and form leaks. The kidneys are unable to filter waste products out of the blood into the urine properly and useful substances such as protein are lost in the urine.
Now that you understand how sugar can affect your body – it’s important to figure out how you can stop the vicious sugar cycle. Each person is different and their cravings for sugar are different. Some can cut it out “cold-turkey” and others may take a bit longer. Here are some tips for helping you remove processed sugar from your diet:
The 7-Day Sugar Challenge:
Research has shown that your sight and taste-buds are directly connected to brain cells – no news there, but they have predictions for how long your brain “remembers” how things taste. For example, when you see a cupcake your taste-buds activate and send a strong message to your brain because it “remembers” what that cupcake will taste like. The strong message leaves you feeling like you must react – i.e. bring the cupcake in for a big ol’ bite.
The research on this whole process of “sugar” memories explain that this strong memory / strong impulse can be reduced if the taste buds go 7-10 days without receiving the experience (without having sugar). Ultimately, after those 7-10 days your taste buds should remember less of what sugar tastes like and the ability to turn down the item should be easier. Give it a try if you find your sweet tooth reeking havoc on your diet.
Resources and Further Reading: