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Surviving sugar addiction

The craving. The withdrawal. The highs and lows.

It’s real. You can be addicted to sugar, and it can be just as hard a habit to break as an addiction to caffeine or other drugs that affect the brain. Maria Shriver did an extensive report on the issue. In part, she found the National Institutes of Health has funded a number of studies on the subject. Shriver interviewed Dr. Pam Peeke, an expert on sugar addiction. And, of that interview, in part, Peeke says:

Sugar addiction and food addiction is one of the hottest new sciences emerging over the last 10 years. What we’ve been able to find is that, in my estimation, heck yeah, it’s real. Because we now have credible science, and it’s being published on a daily basis, by the top universities, funded by the National Institutes of Health… showing a relationship that is so powerful between sugar — specific foods we call the hyperpalatables, sugary, fatty, salty — food combinations, and their very, very strong association with addiction, and now proven changes, organic changes that take place in the brain, specifically the brain’s reward center.

Some of the signs of sugar addiction include craving sugar, losing control and eating more than planned, according to Web MD, which has a useful slideshow on sugar addiction. And, the Today Show profiled a woman who went to a treatment center for sugar. The center, called Malibu Vista, has done its own studies and say that food addictions in general seem to affect a large number of women who were abused as children.

When it comes to beating the sugar addiction, experts say to slowly decrease excess sugar intake. That means less sugar in coffee and tea, and trying out foods with no sugar added. Apple sauce, for example, comes with sugar added or no extra sugar added. Check the labels. Some jarred spaghetti sauces also have added sugar. Again, check the label.

Experts also say to be careful replacing real sugar with imitation sweeteners. Women’s Health magazine reported the following: that using natural sweeteners in moderation seems to be the key.

“And if getting too many calories is what worries you, reaching for a Sprite Zero isn’t the solution: Artificial sweeteners may be almost as bad for you as HFCS. In 2004, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that rats ate more after consuming an artificially sweetened drink than they did after sipping sugar water. Researchers speculate that calorie-free artificial sweeteners act like stomach teasers: As you swallow diet soda, your body anticipates the arrival of calories. When they don’t show up, your body sends you looking elsewhere for them, often in a snack bowl. A 2005 study by researchers from the University of Texas found that people who drank a can of diet soda per day had a 37 percent greater incidence of obesity. And because artificial sweeteners are often many times sweeter than sugar, stirring a teaspoonful into your daily cup of joe may mean that when you do use real sugar, it just doesn’t taste sweet enough for you, sending you grabbing extra sugar packets.”