Sugar Buzz: Is Sugar as Harmful and Addictive as Heroin?

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(WHNT) – You’re tired, irritable and hungry for more. The foods you eat could be as potent as heroin or opium.

Doctors say we consume twice as much sugar as we did 100 years ago. The average American eats three pounds of sugar a week. That consumption level makes you want even more. But could something as sweet as sugar be as harmful as heroin?

Jennifer Stotler lived on sugar. “I love sweets. I also love chocolate,” she said.

The imbalanced diet made her obese.  She said her metabolism wasn’t working. Then a year ago, she hit rock bottom.

Stotler says, “I couldn’t enjoy the things I wanted to anymore. If I wanted to do something, I had to think if I could do that.”

At 370 pounds, the 41-year-old was desperate for help.

She says, “I never thought I would ever weigh that.”

Doctor Lawrence Wieger, a bariatric physician, says one out of ten Americans have diabetes.  He says, “When we eat foods high is sugars, it has an effect on the liver and it makes it harder for our body to use it for energy.”

Dr. Wieger says the sugar increases insulin. He says we use insulin to get the sugar in our muscles to use for energy and it will store excess fat in the middle.

But sometimes, a lifestyle change is easier said than done.

Dr. Wieger says, “Those foods that have sugar are also comfort foods. When we’re under stress, when we have a bad day, those are the foods we go to because temporarily they make us feel better.”

That feeling is similar to a drug addiction.

Dr. Wieger says, “It effects the same brain pathways that some drugs, cocaine, opium. There’s a rewards center in our brain and when people eat a high sugar diet, it lights up the area of the brain.”

And it creates a craving for more. Dr. Wieger says, “So as we get sweeter foods, our taste buds get used to it and need something sweeter to get the same response.”

Doctors say the feeling of needing sugar is a real problem because of the amounts that are readily available.

But, there’s still hope for a healthier future–only three or four days with less sugar cuts cravings.

Stotler now eats snacks filled with plenty of protein. Last July, she started a weight loss program.  Her choice of high protein meals plus exercise is moving her in the right direction.

She says, “I really try to monitor the amount of sugar. I usually allow myself two treats a month, where I might want a cookie or donut and that satisfied me.”

In one year, Stotler’s dropped 60 pounds. Through sweat and determination, she’s naturally kicked her sugar addiction.  She says, “I’m really happy and I know the exercise plays into that and watching what I’m eating.”

Doctors say try cutting back on liquid sugars like sodas and fruit juice.  Increasing your protein will fill you up and help combat your sugar cravings.

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