Put Down the Haribo: Sugar's Affecting More Than Just Our Waistlines
We don't need to tell you that sugar is bad for your health. Not only does it make us put on weight, it can also increase the likelihood of anxiety and addiction. Other studies have shown that when women consume a lot of sugar when pregnant, it might be linked to their child's allergies.
The World Health Organisation recommends that "adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars [this means any sugar added to foods by the manufacturer or us, plus the sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices] to less than 10% of their total energy intake," and 25 grams per day is enough for healthy benefits. However, in 2014, the BBC reported the National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that adults consume over twice the recommended daily allowance. Clearly we all need to be cutting back.
But a recent look at how sugar affects moods has thrown sugar addiction in an even worse light: It could even bring on depression. Keep scrolling to read more about this study and what it means for our health, plus how to tackle sugar addiction.
A recent piece of research, a 22-year study that observed the diets of 8000 people, discovered that there was a correlation between sugar intake and symptoms of depression, particularly in men. According to the study, the "research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health."
While it was more men that were affected, rather than women, that doesn't mean there is no link for women being affected by sugar too. Results from a study published in 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that "high-GI diets [carbohydrates that break down quickly and release glucose into the blood stream more rapidly], could be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women."
Ready to give up sugar? Keep scrolling for how to beat sugar addiction.
Am I addicted to sugar?
To get some guidance on whether or not you could be addicted to sugar, it's worth referring to the experts. While you might not realise it, sugar addiction symptoms include "our appetites increas[ing], and [we see] a greater desire for more sweets, which can lead to cravings, mood swings, and the all too familiar 'crash and burn,'" says registered dietitian Lauren O'Connor.
According to a 2013 study, sugar can "induce reward cravings that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs," so it's no wonder so many of us are addicted. I also spoke to Jo Travers, RD, author of The Low-Fad Diet, who told me a bit about why we crave sugar so much. "The main reason is that it gives [us] a boost of energy that we need either because we are tired, hungry, dehydrated or all of the above." However, she said, the trouble is, the sugar high doesn't last: "It always ends in a sugar crash, which starts the cycle all over again." Fear not—there are ways to break this cycle.
How can I stop my sugar addiction?
Scared by how much you rely on sugar? Fear not: I spoke to Travers about how to stop. "If you are trying to break this cycle, the best way to do it is to get enough sleep, drink plenty of fluids (ideally about 200 millilitres every hour), eat a fist-size portion of slow-release carbohydrates with every meal and 1/2 a portion in between for snacks," advises Jo.
By doing this, you will ensure you're giving your body fuel without resorting to the sugar when you need some energy: "It will reduce the main triggers for a sugar craving," Travers shares. Of course, there's one major problem when you need an energy boost (particularly around 4 p.m.): snacking. While you could try some of these delicious sugar-free snacks, Jo said that her favourites were protein or carbs in the form of oatcakes, cheese or hummus.
Sugar-free starter pack:
Need more? Five healthy hacks to limit your sugar intake.