Thursday, October 29, 2009

Understanding Sugar Addiction

Addiction to refined CARBOHYDRATES in general and to sucrose (table sugar) specifically is a controversial topic. Proponents believe that sugar has no effect on behavior, and that it has little effect on health other than promoting tooth decay. A government task force concluded in 1986 that typical sugar consumption does not generally pose a health hazard. Critics contend that sugar addiction is a common phenomenon. Preferring sugar and sweets seems to be programmed at infancy. A craving for sweets often develops later in life, and in this sense sugar may be psychologically addicting. Compounding the problem of defining sugar addiction is the general observation that related symptoms are rather vague, including a change in mood or feeling shaky when abstaining from sugary foods.
One hypothesis proposes that addicted persons have a drive to achieve a sense of well-being and to overcome depression. Some addicted persons seem to have an abnormal metabolism of NEUROTRANSMITTERS, chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another cell. A primary example is the link between depression and low levels of the brain chemical serotonin and the correlation between high-sugar, high-fat diets, and high brain serotonin levels. Evidence suggests that eating certain sugary foods stimulates the production of brain peptides (ENDORPHINS), which trigger pleasant feelings. It has been hypothesized that the formation of endorphins may be abnormal in some individuals,
possibly triggering compulsive eating behavior like BULIMIA NERVOSA. (See also APPETITE; BLOOD SUGAR; NATURAL SWEETENERS.)

Understanding Addiction

A chronic condition characterized by CRAVINGS for and uncontrollable use of a substance (often drugs or alcohol) despite negative physical, mental, or social consequences. People who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction are often malnourished and may be either overweight due to an increased consumption of foods high in refined CARBOHYDRATES or underweight due to a loss of APPETITE.
Nutrition offers a powerful adjunct to recovery and restoring the body’s biochemical balance. A nutritional program for a recovering addict might advise:
  • establishing new eating patterns, including eating frequent small meals to stabilize blood sugar (GLUCOSE) and prevent HYPOGLYCEMIA
  • avoiding foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates eating a varied, balanced diet of VEGETABLES, whole GRAINS, LEGUMES, FRUITS, lean MEAT, POULTRY, and FISH
  • avoiding or eliminating foods that contain CAFFEINE
  • taking daily supplements of certain VITAMINS and MINERALS, such as GLUTAMINE, VITAMIN C, and NIACINAMIDE.

Acrylamide and Human Health

A chemical used in making plastics, textiles, and dyes and in purifying drinking water. Short-term exposure above safe limits (maximum contaminant levels) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) causes damage to the central nervous system. Long-term exposure can cause paralysis and possibly cancer. The chemical has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. In 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency meeting of food safety and health experts after a team of Swedish scientists reported that some starch-based foods, like potato CHIPS, FRENCH FRIES, and some BREAKFAST CEREALS and BREADS, contain high levels of acrylamide. The amount of the chemical found in a large order of fast-food french fries was at least 300 times above EPA safe limits for drinking water. Additional studies in Norway, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States reached similar results.
Acrylamide apparently forms in some starchy foods when they are baked or fried at high temperatures. Raw or boiled samples of these foods, such as potatoes, test negative for the chemical. Research on the health effects of acrylamide in food is ongoing. For the time being, most health experts have stopped short of advising consumers to avoid the risky foods or change their cooking methods.