I was raised on sugar. As a child, I equated it with love. Morning, noon and night it made its way into my life. Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries got chased down with a doughnut, lunch by a candy bar and dinner with a bowl of ice-cream.
Today, you needn’t be sugar junkie to feel the effect. It is everywhere, disguised in many forms. Because sugar is so pervasive, understanding the body’s response to it has become a part of holistic wellness.
As soon as sugar hits the tongue it sends signals to the brain which activate a series of electrical and chemical pathways known as the reward system. It’s a complicated network that helps us answer a simple question: “Do I want more?”
The resounding “Yes!” is the rewards system in action. And it’s not just activated by food. Socializing, sexual behavior and drugs are a small sample of other triggers. When we over activate the rewards system, it kick starts a cascade of negative consequences such as loss of control, craving and increased tolerance.
The currency of our reward system is dopamine. Our brains have concentrated hot spots of dopamine receptors that are sent into overdrive by things like alcohol and nicotine. These ‘hot spots’ are what causes some people to constantly seek the initial high.
Sugar is no different. Anytime it is consumed it sparks a domino-effect in the reward center. The brain lights up and says, “More please!” For most, moderation is the key. And if we choose wisely, we literally can have our cake and eat it too.