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Sugar seems like it’s in everything. But how addictive is sugar? Is it always bad for you? What does it do to your body?

Sugar in the blood stream triggers the release of dopamine by neurons in the Mesolithic dopamine system (or reward system) in the brain, signaling that the event of eating sugar was positive. When this reward system is triggered it makes us more inclined to carry out the same action again in the future. This makes sugar incredibly addictive.

In many ways, sugar is more addictive than nicotine and alcohol, but also not as harmful when eaten in moderation in “whole foods.”

In addition to rewarding your body with dopamine, sugar causes changes in the hippocampus – reduction of newborn neurons that allow memory formation, and also inflammation. Clinically, sugar causes slowing in cognitive function and reduced attention and memory.

Sugar also affects your energy level. It causes an increase in energy level for the very short term (minutes) and then as the sugar is metabolized this transitions to fatigue to the point of sleepiness.

If you’re trying to cut sugar out of your diet, start with foods high in added sugars. Then, slowly taper back on the sugar and processed carbohydrates that are staples in your diet (e.g. going from two sugars in your coffee to one.)

Sugars are in fruit, some vegetables and are the end product of grains. It’s not possible to eliminate sugars from your diet completely without losing other essential nutrients. Added sugars (in most processed foods) can and should be reduced, but it’s not an all or nothing situation. Unlike a drug addiction, you can never completely eliminated sugar from your diet in a healthy way.

If you want to discuss your diet to get more information from a trained nutritionist, book an appointment today!