Whether you have a sweet tooth or not so much, sugar in some form is added to almost every packaged food you buy. You are probably getting more sugar—even too much sugar—without even knowing it.
Refined sugar (and its substitutes) is the bane of human existence, causing all sorts of illness, disease, and general malaise. A packaged food may not say “sugar” in the list of ingredients but it may be called by something else, like:
- Corn syrup/sweetener
- Evaporated cane juice
- High fructose corn syrup
- Hydrolyzed starch
- Malt syrup
- Rice Syrup
With all these sources of sugar, how do you know how much sugar is too much? If you experience the symptoms below, it’s high time you cut out sweets from your diet.
1. Cravings for Sugar/Carbs
Sugar is addictive. It’s as addictive as cocaine and its effects are similar. Sugar stimulates the production of dopamine, a pleasure hormone. Without even thinking about it, we may crave sweets and simple carbohydrates to give ourselves a “fix”. And, like other addictions, the body builds up a tolerance for sugar so the more you eat, the more you want—even if you’re not hungry. (1)
“The theory is formulated that intermittent, excessive intake of sugar can have dopaminergic, cholinergic and opioid effects that are similar to psychostimulants and opiates, albeit smaller in magnitude. The overall effect of these neurochemical adaptations is mild, but well-defined, dependency,” writes a study published in Neuroscience Biobehavioral Reviews. (2)
It’s not about the number of calories, what matters is the quality of the calories of the food you eat. Too much sugar and starchy carbohydrates (that break down into sugar) are as harmful to our bodies as hard street drugs and are responsible for more disease and death than illegal drugs.
Watch the short video below for an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman discussing a groundbreaking study that explains the physiology behind sugar addiction.
2. Lack of Energy and Tiredness
Orexins are a type of neuropeptide (an amino acid chain that forms protein in the brain). These neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus are responsible for the sleep/wake cycle, among other things. They are sensitive to sugars and respond to glucose levels in the body. (3) Even small increases in blood glucose inhibit orexins’ transmission of neural signals, thereby inducing a sleep state. (4) So while you experience a sugar “high” shortly after eating/drinking, the “crash” that follows is how you experience the shut-down of neurotransmitters: you feel tired.
3. Weight Gain
Excess sugar consumption makes you fat. Of course, there are other factors such as activity level and metabolic rate that come into play, but the body burns sugar first for energy. What it can’t immediately use, it stores for when you need it—as fat. In addition, eating too much sugar makes you overeat by suppressing the hormone leptin, which tells the body when to stop eating. If you feel tired and lethargic from consuming sugar, you’re less likely to exercise, too.
A rise in blood glucose stimulates insulin production to get it back down to normal levels. Insulin decreases blood sugar levels: when it fluctuates or gets too low, your body thinks it needs more fuel. So you eat even when you don’t really need to. (5)
On the other hand, proteins keep us active and awake. Eating protein stimulates orexins, which make you feel alert and promote active metabolism to burn calories. (6)