Sugar addiction facts

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Your cravings for sugar are not a sign of weakness of character. There are scientific reasons why the chocolate cupboard may speak loudly to you even after a full meal:

1. "Sugar addiction is a symptom of a deeper problem called sugar sensitivity," says Kathleen DesMaisons, author of The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Programme (Simon & Schuster, R229,95 from Kalahari.net). "Sugar sensitivity is an inherited condition that makes you more reactive to imbalances in your body and brain chemistry that exist even prior to eating sweets. These imbalances create cravings, mood swings, erratic energy and sugar addition."

2. Fat may not be the enemy it's been made out to be, explains registered dietitian Anne Till. "An interesting new picture is emerging that now associates conditions such as heart disease and diabetes with excessive carbohydrate consumption and very-low-fat diets."

3. Insulin resistance may play a part too, says Anne. "Very-low-fat diets reduce the responsiveness of cells to insulin. The longing for high-sugar foods may be attributed to the fact that these foods will elicit a higher-insulin response, which may in turn overcome the cellular resistance."

4. According to info from the Depression and Anxiety Support Group of Southern Africa, about 77 percent of people with hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) are suffering from depression. "Sugar loading causes weight gain, which in turn leads to a loss of energy and at times a low self-esteem, which is often associated with depression."

The side effect of weight gain associated with antidepressant medications doesn't help. Crash dieting also aggravates the problem, decreasing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, which can result in feelings of apathy; and serotonin, which can precipitate a carbohydrate binge, continuing the devastating cycle.

5. Eating a high-carbohydrate diet that promotes high insulin levels in the blood may cause increased appetite and so leave you craving a sugar 'fix'.

6. To solve the problem, you need to eat regular meals in controlled amounts, including protein at each meal.

7. Add bulk to meals with vegetables and salads that give a variety of vitamins and minerals. And snack on fruit.

8. Include some fats in your diet, especially unsaturated fats, which you'll find in avocado pears, olive oil and nuts; as well as fatty fish, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. This will not only help satisfy hunger pangs more easily but will also improve the structure of cell membranes, which can improve insulin sensitivity on the cellular level.

9. Don't beat yourself up about lack of willpower. "I would not attribute carbohydrate cravings to problems with self-control,"says Anne Till. "With the correction of physiological problems, self-control becomes easier."

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