Before anyone gets all in a tither about comparing an innocent sweet little thing like sugar to hardcore amphetamines and street drugs, hear us out.
Sugar and meth are unlikely sisters in the world of addiction, only one kills you faster and is illegal. Sweet, inconspicuous sugar lurks in nearly every packaged and processed food in one form or another. Glucose, fructose, dextrose, white, powdered, brown, raw, cane, beet, organic, fair trade: all the same addictive sweet sleeping killer. Heroine, cocaine and meth are a bit harder for the everyday pleasure seeker to find.
Consuming sugar creates a surge of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is the “feel good” hormone that is also activated when illegal drugs such as amphetamines and heroine are used. The same receptors in the brain are activated. The surge isn’t as high or cascading when sugar is the catalyst but the effect is still pleasure, and then a drop. This causes the urge or need for more of the substance to get that pleasurable high feeling again. For the sweet seeking sect, it’s not hard to find the next fix.
For a lot of people this urge can be so strong that they must get more. Must. They seek out a gourmet cupcake here, a few gorgeous chocolates there. Then it becomes consuming. When can they grab another sugary snack? What will they eat for dessert? Eating candy alone or hiding food from others so that they know they will have it available when they can get to it. For some this spirals into binge eating and other self-destructive behaviors.
We aren’t saying that every person that ever ate a piece of candy is a strung-out addict. We’re saying, it happens on a much more socially acceptable and fluffy soft sweet scale. Sugar addicts may become obese, diseased ticking time bombs. Or they can become obsessed, disordered eating miserable beings filled with reasons and promises and pain. Or, they can walk around, seemingly normal, wondering why the heck they can never control their sweet tooth.
Living with a need for sugar isn’t as socially abhorrent as jonesing for meth, but it is equally if not more destructive. The food industry knows the addictive powers of this purified food product ingredient and it uses it to its advantage to get consumers hooked on their cocktails of sugar and chemicals to ensure their products will be successful.
The food industry can excuse pumping its products full of this addictive natural substance and even start its users as early as infancy without anyone blinking an eye.
With diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer on the rise, awareness of what drives us to harm ourselves with food is vital. The next time you or someone you love reaches for that second or third sugary treat, think about whether resisting would be tough. Does the urge and desire outweigh the knowledge that it’s not a healthy choice?
It’s time to take awareness to the next level. Action is the only answer.