Have you wondered what exactly is happening in the brain when someone experiences sugar cravings and binge eating?
Recent scientific research has provided evidence for the addictive nature of sugar. Studies have shown that excessive sugar intake can lead to behavioral and neurochemical changes similar to those seen in drug addiction (Avena et al., 2008). In fact, one study found that the pleasure derived from intense sweetness surpasses that of even cocaine (Lenoir et al., 2007).
The concept of "food addiction" has been proposed, with a focus on highly palatable foods, such as those high in sugar and fat (Gearhardt et al., 2009). These foods activate the brain's reward system, releasing dopamine and other neurotransmitters, leading to a pleasurable response. However, repeated exposure to these foods can lead to tolerance, where the individual needs more and more of the food to achieve the same pleasurable response.
Furthermore, a study by Avena et al. (2008) found that sugar and fat bingeing have distinct differences in addictive-like behavior. Specifically, sugar bingeing led to a greater increase in dopamine in the brain's reward center, as well as more severe withdrawal symptoms when access to sugar was restricted. The researchers found that consuming a diet high in sugar can lead to an increase in the levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain (Johnson & Kenny, 2010). High levels of glutamate have been linked to addiction, as they can lead to an increase in craving and withdrawal symptoms when the individual is not able to consume sugar.
Addiction is a complex disorder that is influenced by a variety of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors (Gold & Heffernan, 2011). The researchers discovered that individuals who have difficulty regulating their sugar intake have abnormal activity in the brain regions associated with reward and motivation. This dysfunction may make it harder for these individuals to control their sugar intake and may contribute to the development of binge eating.
A study by Johnson and Kenny (2010) found that sugar consumption leads to the impairment of dopamine D2 receptors in the brain, which can contribute to addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. This impairment can lead to an increase in craving and withdrawal symptoms when the individual is not able to consume sugar, which can further reinforce the behavior of needing more sugar to achieve the same pleasurable response. This is why it can be so difficult for individuals to stop eating sugar, even when they know it is not good for them. The brain's reward system is being hijacked by the intense pleasure derived from consuming sugar. And, unfortunately, the more sugar an individual consumes, the harder it becomes to break the cycle of addiction.
However, there is hope. One solution to this issue is to focus on restoring the neurotransmitters that have been affected by excessive sugar consumption, such as dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and reward. This can be done through functional nutrition (Young, 1996) by a certified recovery coach specializing in these issues. If you struggle with binge eating and sugar addiction, it may be helpful to seek out professional help such that as The Binge Eating Recovery Coach. Watch real-life case studies with this free case study video training showing that sugar addiction recovery is not only possible, but it can be maintained with an individualized approach focusing on brain chemistry repair, naturally. Get the free case study here.
Scientific Research Article References For: Why Can't I Stop Eating Sugar:
Avena, N.M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B.G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), 20-39.
Avena, N.M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B.G. (2008). Sugar and fat bingeing have notable differences in addictive-like behavior. Journal of Nutrition, 138(6), 843-847.
Gearhardt, A.N., Corbin, W.R., & Brownell, K.D. (2009). Food addiction: An examination of the diagnostic criteria for dependence. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 3(1), 1-7.
Gold, M.S., & Heffernan, M. (2011). The neurobiology of addiction: An integrative review. Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 23(4), 517-532.
Johnson, P.M., & Kenny, P.J. (2010). Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nature neuroscience, 13(5), 635-641.
Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S.H. (2007). Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PloS one, 2(8), e698.
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