What’s more addictive? Cocaine or sugar? The answer to this question might surprise you. You would think that the sweet stuff would be easier to give up than a substance so strong that it is illegal. However, more and more data reports that sugar is probably the most consumed addictive substance throughout the world and can be considered the new cocaine owing to its dramatic parallels and overlaps with drug-like effects.
- Both stimulate our brain’s pleasure centers.
Sugar activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine. When an individual eats sugar, feel-good chemicals like dopamine and opioids are released, activating the “reward circuit” in the brain. This is similar to the way the brain reacts to the ingestion of substances like heroin and cocaine.
- Both are highly addictive.
Sugar triggers dopamine “hits” in the brain, making us crave more of it. Every time we eat sweets, we are reinforcing those neural pathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug. Many people claim that they feel compelled to eat sweet foods, similar in some ways to how an alcoholic might feel compelled to drink. Over time, greater amounts are required to reach that same feel-good state, just as drug addicts use more to chase their original high.
- Both are harmful to the body.
Throughout the body, excessive amounts of sugar are harmful. Sugar results in slowed cognitive function and deficits in memory and attention. Additional research shows that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of the brain chemical essential for new memory formation and learning.
- Both are over abused.
According to data, the average American eats about three pounds of sugar per week! While adults consume more than three times the daily recommended intake of six teaspoons, American children are nearly quadrupling that number. An astounding 33 percent of all that added sugar comes from beverage drinks. For instance, a 12-ounce can of soda contains eight teaspoons of added sugar.
Although sugar is not an illegal substance, it’s safe to say it has more parallels to illegal drugs than we would like to think. It is important to know the strong effects sugar has on us, as sugar plays a huge role in our everyday lives, especially if you have an addictive personality or are prone to sweet cravings without much self-control!