Thursday, October 29, 2009

Understanding Sugar Addiction

Addiction to refined CARBOHYDRATES in general and to sucrose (table sugar) specifically is a controversial topic. Proponents believe that sugar has no effect on behavior, and that it has little effect on health other than promoting tooth decay. A government task force concluded in 1986 that typical sugar consumption does not generally pose a health hazard. Critics contend that sugar addiction is a common phenomenon. Preferring sugar and sweets seems to be programmed at infancy. A craving for sweets often develops later in life, and in this sense sugar may be psychologically addicting. Compounding the problem of defining sugar addiction is the general observation that related symptoms are rather vague, including a change in mood or feeling shaky when abstaining from sugary foods.
One hypothesis proposes that addicted persons have a drive to achieve a sense of well-being and to overcome depression. Some addicted persons seem to have an abnormal metabolism of NEUROTRANSMITTERS, chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another cell. A primary example is the link between depression and low levels of the brain chemical serotonin and the correlation between high-sugar, high-fat diets, and high brain serotonin levels. Evidence suggests that eating certain sugary foods stimulates the production of brain peptides (ENDORPHINS), which trigger pleasant feelings. It has been hypothesized that the formation of endorphins may be abnormal in some individuals,
possibly triggering compulsive eating behavior like BULIMIA NERVOSA. (See also APPETITE; BLOOD SUGAR; NATURAL SWEETENERS.)

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