Nevertheless, after hearing the news, many of us shrugged and turned back to our cupcakes. Yet we may already be feeling the effects of too much sugar without even realizing it. Here’s how to beat the most common issues to prevent long-term damage and feel your best right now.
The Sign: Stress Eating
For a pick-me-up, you may inhale a bag of M&M’s or scarf down a box of cookies. But the impulse goes deeper. To examine the hold sugar can have over us, substance-abuse researchers have performed brain scans on subjects eating something sweet. What they’ve seen resembles the mind of a drug addict: When subjects taste sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it would in an alcoholic drinking a bottle of gin. Dopamine—the so-called reward chemical—spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. (Sugar also fuels the calming hormone serotonin.)
The Fix: Many of us are more likely to binge when stressed. That said, a cookie a couple of times a week is fine, but on most days, go for a bowl of oatmeal with no more than a tablespoon of brown sugar, suggests Jeffrey Fortuna, PhD, a health and behavior lecturer at California State University, Fullerton. The whole grains fill you up, and the sweetness can satisfy you while raising serotonin slightly.