May 2, 2024 – “Excess sugar has very addictive properties,” says Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist. “It activates opiate receptors, then we experience a surge of dopamine, which lights up the reward and pleasure centers in the brain—these are associated with addictive behavior activated by things like gambling and cocaine.” 

A feel-good physiological mechanism, when we do get our sugar fix, we are likely to experience feelings of alertness, happiness, and/or comfort. When we don’t, we may experience cravings, the urge to binge and/or feel withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation, anxiety and headaches. “Physically, it can lead to glucose disregulation [or imbalanced blood sugar], and hyperinsulinemia, inflammation, impaired immunity and more.” Sugar triggers a cascade of inflammatory reactions in the body and skin,” says nutritionist Lola Ross. “When we eat sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, it causes a spike in blood glucose levels, then the pancreas produces insulin to circulate sugars to be used as energy in our cells. Diets that are chronically high in sugary foods can lead to insulin resistance, a state where blood sugar becomes poorly managed in the body.” Insulin resistance can lead to health issues such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes, so it’s definitely something to avoid.