There’s no denying that sugary foods can be a delicious way for teens to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy an occasional tasty treat. In fact, a cupcake or chocolate bar every now and then can be a pick-me-up. But for some teens, sugar can become an addiction with damaging effects on their health and overall life.
What is a Sugar Addiction?
Research has shown that foods that contain sugar are biologically addictive. Consuming sugar increases dopamine levels, meaning the brain processes sugar as a reward, which then results in intense sugar cravings that are only satisfied by eating more sugary foods. The more often these cravings are indulged, the harder it becomes to break the addiction. Despite seeming harmless when compared to alcohol or illicit drugs, sugar is an addictive substance that can have serious health consequences.
Signs and Symptoms
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If you suspect that your teen may have a sugar addiction, keep your eyes open for a few of these tell-tale signs:
- Your pantry is constantly emptied of cookies and other sweets as soon as you get back from the grocery store
- You find sugary foods and drinks hidden in your teen’s bedroom and other rooms in the house
- Your teen eats something sweet with every meal
- They can’t stop eating sugary foods once they’ve started
- They exhibit anxious behavior if they’re unable to indulge their sugar craving
How Sugar Addiction Impacts the Body
Sugar has a negative impact on physical health in many ways. Besides genetic factors, excess sugar consumption can increase the risk of diabetes; it can also damage the kidneys’ filtration system. Another issue is inflammation: sugar can raise levels of inflammatory substances known as cytokines, which can lead to arteries clogged with cholesterol. Furthermore, a sugar addiction often leads to weight gain and obesity due to the high calorie content of sugary foods.
How Sugar Addiction Impacts the Mind
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Teens with a sugar addiction may undergo mood fluctuations that are more pronounced than the normal, hormone-induced mood swings most teens experience. This is because sugar consumption causes spikes and crashes in blood sugar, affecting the neurotransmitters that help keep moods stable. A sugar crash also leads to fatigue and irritability, which affect mood as well.
Even more, sugar addicts may experience depression. One study found that diets high in sugar and processed food can increase the risk of depression in adolescents.
Potential Long-Term Consequences
Teens often have a hard time thinking of how their actions today may impact them later in life, which is why it’s important that your teen is aware of the potential long-term consequences of an untreated dependence on sugar. A sugar addiction can lead to chronic, lifelong illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems and autoimmune diseases.
A sugar addiction is a dangerous habit that can cause both long-term and short-term side effects. If you think your teen is addicted to sugar, make an appointment for you and your teen with your family doctor. They can help you find treatment options to help your teen manage their addiction and create a healthy meal plan that will help them cope in the process.
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