Still ordering those skinny pumpkin spice lattes? Turns out you should probably be holding the sugary syrup flavor rather than the fat. Halloween is almost here so here is some scary news: sugar is the big issue with weight gain and health issues, not fat.
How does sugar affect the body?
When you consume sugar, dopamine is released in your brain (that hormone that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy). This hormone may sound familiar, as it's the same pleasure feeling that is triggered through exercise, sex, and from taking drugs. Drug addicts lose their sensitivity to their drug of choice over time, and need to up their intake to get the same rush.
Frighteningly, sugar works in the same way. The more sugar you consume, the less sensitive you become to it - and in turn the more you crave.
When you consume something full of sugar it results in a domino effect (no pun intended). First your blood sugar levels spike, then dopamine is released along with insulin. Insulin is what signals to your cells to store the sugar as fat.
Soon after, you experience a sugar crash and crave more to find that balance again. The crash is what occurs when sugar levels in the blood drop. You feel tired and cranky, and reach for another sugary food or drink.
Since our cells yield the highest amount of energy from fat, they store what isn't being burned off through exercise. This means any added fat from sugar gets converted into fat cells!
Why do we crave sugar if its so bad for us?
Our bodies follow the chemical processes above all on their own, but our desire for sugar can be traced back to our caveman days. According to the documentary Hungry for Change, sugar from fruit was found very infrequently. Since fat storage meant survival, we evolved with the desire to consume as much of it as possible on the occasion that we found sugary fruit. (Side note: yes, fruit sugar is still sugar, although when eating fruit you also consume fiber which helps it to move through your system. Fruit juice lacks the fiber and includes a higher concentration of sugar!)
Over the past 100-years, the way that we eat has greatly changed. Food is in abundance can be processed and stored for long periods of time. Sugar is everywhere and in everything, from salad dressings to sauces, and from cereals to granola bars. Yet our body chemistry has not changed and it still processes sugar the same way as it always did.
How do we break the sugar cycle?
Ultimately the best way to break bad sugar habits is through awareness. Sugar hides in all kinds of products, and seeking it out is a great first step. Once you begin to reduce your intake you'll feel more sensitive to small amounts, and that means you're on the right track to better health! Ready for a healthy Halloween? We can help make yours a little less scary.
[Credit: Dr. Long Gillespie, Darria. The Shocking Truth About Sugar. Huffington Post.]