The dopamine rush can be a comfort when we are down, and it can reduce stress. Cortisol is a stress-inducing hormone that is released in anxious situations.
Read more: Fact or fiction – is sugar addictive?
The problem is that the more sugar we ingest, the more we need to make us feel good. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
Sugar consumption that is excessive and prolonged increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body cannot maintain healthy glucose levels (sugar).
In the last 40 years, the number of adults who have type 2 diabetes has quadrupled. In 2017-18, 1 million Australians were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Many more were at high risk of developing it.
Sugar reduction is not impossible. Some strategies are personal, while others require industry and government involvement.
On a personal level, we need to reduce our sugar addiction slowly. 75% of our foods and drinks contain added sugar.
I stopped buying products that were obviously sugar-laden – fruit juices and soft drinks. I also avoided chocolate, ice creams, sweet biscuits, candy, and a variety of candies. I no longer sprinkle sugar on my breakfast cereal or add it to my coffee and tea.
These simple strategies caused me to experience withdrawal syndrome, including irritability and headaches, as well as fatigue. The symptoms began on the first day. The signs and cravings were uncomfortable but only lasted for three days.
To reach the next level, you should eliminate commercially produced food that contains excessive amounts of sugar, such as jams and condiments.
You may also want to reduce or eliminate the consumption of refined carbs such as white rice and potatoes, especially those that are highly processed. These carbs are converted to glucose by the digestive system and are a form of sugar.
Is it time for you to reduce your consumption of jams and sugary spreads? Shutterstock
You should be aware when you’re eating sugar out of habit, for example, if you eat a chocolate bar in front of the television or a bag full of sweets at the cinema, or as a reward after a good job.
Read more: If sugar is so bad for us, why is the sugar in fruit OK?
It’s also important to be aware of those times when we’re using sugar to make us feel better or alleviate stress. The brain doesn’t care where it gets its feel-good chemicals from, so try going for a walk, run, or cycle, listen to your favorite music playlist, or try doing a good deed instead.
In terms of public health, the government should play a key role in encouraging Australians to reduce their sugar intake.
Government strategies should focus on accessibility, advertising, and addition.
It would be wise to make sweets less visible and more accessible in supermarkets and other places like post offices, service stations, and delicatessens. By removing them from the checkout counters, you can reduce the likelihood of impulse purchases.
It is best to keep chocolates and lollies away from the checkout. Shutterstock
Taxing sugary drinks will make us drink less of them, according to strong evidence. A tax on these drinks is likely to reduce their consumption and lead to a decrease in type 2 diabetes.
Read more: Don’t believe the myths – taxing sugary drinks makes us drink less of it.
Third, a more transparent system for the labeling the added sugar content of products should be implemented. The current health star rating system is only voluntary and is in need of reform.
Fourth, the advertising space and time for sugary products, like cigarettes, should be limited, beginning with TV ads and social media targeting children.
Ads for sugary food should not be shown to children. Shutterstock
Five, we should introduce powerful and aggressive awareness campaigns, just as we did for cigarettes. Who can forget those graphic television ads of tar squeezing out of arteries or tar pouring over the lungs?
We need to create a multidisciplinary think tank that will raise public awareness of the dangers sugar poses. This body would include endocrinologists, (medical doctors that treat diabetes), neuroscientists and nutritionists as well as marketers, PR experts and government representatives.