Some With Diabetes May Wonder: Am I Addicted To Sugar?

Exposure to sugary food, or a drug such as cocaine, activates the reward center of our brain. However, brain activity alone does not determine whether a person has an addiction.

Addictions, clinically speaking, have biological and behavioral aspects.

Biological Aspects Addiction

The biological aspect involves our neurological reward circuits. Humans are wired to enjoy activities necessary for survival, such as sexual intimacy and food. When something excites our reward pathways, it is interpreted as being beneficial.

Unfortunately, some things that get our reward system buzzing are unnecessary for survival. If repeated, it can be detrimental to our health. Doing drugs; eating fatty, sugary foods; over-exercising and gambling are examples of non-beneficial pleasures that trigger a dopamine rush in the brain, prompting us to come back for more.

However, the brain response and the urge to repeat a pleasure do not constitute an addiction, although they create the potential for developing one.

Behavioral Signs of Addiction

Those who develop an addiction experience a loss of control regarding a substance or activity. They behave against their own best interest by increasing their engagement with something harmful until it has a negative impact on their life and interferes with everyday functioning.

An addiction dominates an individual's thoughts and actions. They may think about it obsessively, engage in destructive or risky behaviors to satisfy cravings, and have debilitating withdrawal symptoms when they relinquish the substance or activity.

Both animals and people will work extremely hard to obtain something they are addicted to, even giving up what they normally value such as health, home, work and relationships.

Am I Addicted to Sugar?

Loving sweets, desiring them or choosing cheesecake over an apple for an afternoon snack does not mean you are a sugar addict. Yet a small percentage of people demonstrate a loss of control regarding sugary foods.

Five signs that you may be addicted to sugar are:

  1. You eat sugary foods not because you are hungry but because you crave them. Getting the next sugar “fix” is frequently or always on your mind.
  2. You worry constantly about the need to cut back on sweet foods.
  3. You are frequently or consistently feeling fatigued or sluggish.
  4. You have health or social difficulties related to your diet, causing problems at home, school or work, but you continue eating the same way.
  5. You need to consume an increasing amount of the sweets you crave to experience either pleasure or relief from distressing feelings.

Whether you have a clinical addiction or “just” a demanding sweet-tooth, cutting back on sugary food is difficult. Many people cannot do it without professional assistance or support from other people doing the same. It is crucial to seek the help needed if you are having to manage diabetes or are at risk for developing it.

Sources: Live Science and Dr Hyman
Photo credit: Vanessa Lynn / flickr creative commons

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