The truth about sugar addiction

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Can you be hooked on sugar? Are you really “addicted” to sugar? The answer is complex. A pattern of avoiding and binging, not sugar itself, may lead to addict-like effects. Sugar affects the same “feel-good” brain hormones as street drugs.

Some signs of sugar addiction include eating more than you planned, feeling badly when you skip your daily cookie “fix” and feeling nervous, shaky, or even having a cold sweat.

When you overload on sugary foods, it may alter parts of the brain that control how much you eat.

Do you get a rush when you eat a midday candy bar? The sugar in it, called a simple carbohydrate, is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels can spike.

Your body needs to get glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy causing the pancreas to make insulin, a hormone that lowers your blood sugar level causing a sudden drop. Low blood sugar levels can cause you to be shaky, dizzy, and searching for more sugar.

Starchy foods are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars making blood sugar surge. White rice, white flour, and potatoes can do this. Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers, and pasta are the worst.

Can you beat your sugar habit by quitting cold turkey? Some sugar detox plans urge you to avoid all sweets. The idea is to purge your system of sugar. Diet changes like this are too drastic to continue.

You don’t need sugar as much as you think you do. In fact, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. Slowly reduce the sugar in your coffee or cereal.

You don’t have to give up sweetness. Just get it from other sources like fresh fruit.

Make small, simple changes to your diet.

Eating protein is an easy way to curb those cravings.

High-protein foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full longer. Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts or beans.

Fiber also helps by keeping you full and giving you more energy.

Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to