Four Ways Sugar Is Ruining Your Holiday Season: What Research Reveals about the Dangers of Sugar Intake

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Research shows that high-fat and high-sugar foods stimulate the brain the same way drugs do. CounselingCalifornia.com and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists say this explains why some people, no matter how hard they try, can’t resist them and weight gain is especially rampant during the holidays.

“Research has been conducted showing that high-fat and high-sugar foods stimulate the brain the same way drugs do. This explains why some people, no matter how hard they try, can’t resist them." Patricia Ravitz, LMFT, with CAMFT

With the holiday season in full swing, delectable sweets are present at countless parties, family gatherings and other get-togethers. However, if those trying to limit their intake of these items are finding it harder than ever, they may be experiencing sugar’s addictive nature.

“I’ve been fascinated by the psychology of serial dieting, the frustration it creates, the sense of defeat and why some people are successful only to later crash in worse defeat,” said Patricia Ravitz, a licensed marriage and family therapist and board member with the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. “I specialize in treating disordered eating. Many of my clients have been on and off diets for years and don’t understand why they can’t control their eating. They do not lack willpower, discipline, nor are they weak in character. In my quest to help them, I learned one very important fact: sugar is addictive. When I educate my clients on the scientific evidence showing sugar is addictive, just like tobacco and cocaine, this new information and the understanding about what they have been fighting against is key to helping them get off the dieting merry-go-round. Even eating substitute sugar products can lead to over eating and weight gain.”

Ravitz said that in her search to learn more, she poured over dozens of studies pointing to the fact that sugar is indeed one of the worst culprits when it comes to triggering compulsive eating and weight gain.

“It’s so simple, yet the public is not adequately informed,” she added. “Research has been conducted showing that high-fat and high-sugar foods stimulate the brain the same way drugs do. This explains why some people, no matter how hard they try, can’t resist them.”

Here are four surprising facts about sugar:

1.) Addictive: It’s not in everyone's imagination that cutting sugar out of their diet feels impossible. A recent study reveals that oreos are just as addictive, if not more, than cocaine! “Our research demonstrated that the rats eating oreos were shown to have higher levels of activated nuerons than when exposed to cocaine or morphine,” said Joseph Schroeder associate professor of psychology and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, Connecticut College. This addictive quality is responsible for people continuing to eat sugar even though they know it’s bad for their health.

2.) Dangerous: Sugar isn’t only detrimental to the waistline. Researchers now claim that sugar can be as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco. According to the Connecticut College study conducted on rats and mice, when high levels of fructose, a component of sugar broken down by the liver, reach the liver in a short amount of time, the majority is converted into fat. This can cause an overload that can lead to numerous health problems such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes among other problems.

3.) Depression: While people usually associate eating sweets and fast food with happy feelings, it actually puts them at a higher risk for developing depression. In fact, a study published in the Public Health Journal showed that 40 percent of those who ate fast food were more likely to become depressed. While sugar usually causes high levels of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) to be released, people with insulin resistance actually release lower levels of it.

4.) Artificial isn’t the answer: People choosing lower calorie, artificially sweetened food may not be as proactive as they hope. A Yale University study found that people consuming artificial sweetners have a harder time regulating their caloric intake and some participants actually gained weight. While the sweetener itself contains little to no calories, the artificial sweeteners actually cause the brain to crave more real sugar and higher calorie foods.

“Knowing what I know now, I advise my clients struggling with compulsive eating and weight gain to cut out sugar, eat whole unprocessed foods, and stay away from all soda, including diet soda. Once the addiction has quieted down and we have worked through any emotional issues behind the compulsive eating, we test to see if the client is ready to eat a dessert without retriggering the addiction,” added Ravitz. “This approach is not about deprivation and it’s not a diet. Sugar, like some drugs, is addictive, but that addiction can be overcome.”

About the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) is an independent professional organization of approximately 31,000 members that has represented the interests of licensed marriage and family therapists for 50 years. It is dedicated to advancing the profession as an art and a science, to maintaining high standards of professional ethics, to upholding the qualifications for the profession and to expanding the recognition and awareness of the profession.

About CounselingCalifornia.com
CounselingCalifornia.com, a free online resource provided by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, is California's lifeline to nearly 8,000 licensed marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals. At its heart, CounselingCalifornia.com contains a comprehensive searchable directory of licensed marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and other psychotherapists licensed to practice in the state of California. From surviving divorce to coping with depression, CounselingCalifornia.com provides valuable resources for managing difficult life challenges.

Patricia Ravitz is available for interview. Please contact Marisa Vallbona at 619-708-7990 or marisa(at)cimincorporated(dot)com.

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MARISA VALLBONA
@mvallbona
since: 01/2009
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