Sugar sales are forever increasing with an annual average of 1.6% growth projections (Voora V., et al. 2019) whilst in contrast, average annual birth rates have declined from the peak noted in the 1960s to a level now below 0.1% annually (Roser M., 2019). With an ever-increasing consumption of sugar, the question arises as to why more and more people are consuming sugar and how this food source may be debilitating for health. Recently I read an article on Mitochondrion in which a novel concept of cell danger response was explained with eloquent detail, within this research dissertation an apt definition of addiction was provided: “addiction is a physiologic condition characterized by a baseline physiologic arousal or anxiety state that is temporarily quenched or relieved by a particular behaviour or drug” (Naviaux R K., 2019), as such when we consider sugar addiction we need to ask ourselves exactly what is causing our bodies anxiety/stress unwanted arousal that may be fuelling our ‘need’ for sugar?
Historically will-power has been the centre of focused attention when dealing with obesity and or refraining from erroneous eating habits, yet within this framework, people have not healed from the enslavement of poor eating habits, rather metabolic diseases and obesity have only worsened (Saklayen M G., 2018), noting a 300% increase in global incidence along with a 28.3% increase in deaths associated with metabolic disease. With so many more succumbing to illness due to an increase of diseases associated with sugar consumption (Harvard health Publishing., 2022), one needs to ask why, evidently a plausible hypothesis would be an addiction as the narrative of sugar abuse ties completely into the definition and/or characteristics of an addict (Psychology Today., 2022).
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing hoping for a different outcome (Colomer E., 2013), as such addressing metabolic disease by not addressing the probability being that of addiction truly does not equate to a sane plan of action. Re-evaluation of sugar consumption needs to consider multi-factorial elements, such as those noted throughout not only physiological facts but also sociological sentiment. Understanding both the body and the mind truly empower our opportunity to liberate those suffering from sugar addiction, possibly offsetting the likelihood in developing a metabolic disease or contending with such disease in a truly holistic framework.
Serotonin and Dopamine are two powerful immediate drivers of the nervous system, both of which enable feelings of calm, reward, excitation, belonging and even a sense of security, when these neurotransmitters fall out of balance, psychiatric distress ensues leaving our minds and bodies in a state of stress/anxiety or excess arousal, the exact mechanism which sets the scene for addiction.
Dopamine provides our minds with a sense of motivation, cognitive courage if you will, increasing this driver of the mind essentially fuels our passion for purpose. Sugar directly increases dopamine drive and release (Rada P., et al. 2005), resulting in amplified excitation of the brain, now you may be wondering why amplifying your brains dopamine activity may be bad for your health, truth is anything in excess destroys the body, and in the case of dopamine the mind! Excess release of dopamine causes an increase in the production of free radicals due to increased production of dopamine o-quinone (Bisaglia M., et al), leading our neurons (brain cells) into a state of degeneration, essentially, it’s a matter of overheating our neural engine. In order to prevent dopamine toxicity, the body produces an enzyme called DBH (dopamine beta-hydroxylase,) which converts dopamine to norepinephrine, thus preventing dopamine toxicity and supporting the body’s need for catecholamines.
4-Cresol, an analogue produced by infection of C. Difficile, proliferates with an increase in sugar consumption (Saplakoglu Y., 2019), although there are novel studies being conducted within the use of 4-Cresol to aid insulin sensitivity (Brial F., et al. 2020), the outcome of inhibition of dopamine beta-hydroxylase occurs (Goodhart P J., et al. 1983), Thus increasing the likelihood of dopamine toxicity and related increase of outcomes leading into addiction.
Whilst bacterial analogues may inhibit DBH, yeast analogues compromise tryptophan use (Davis I and Liu A., 2015), redirecting metabolism from producing serotonin to quinolinic acid. Quinolinic acid issues an excitotoxic effect on the brain, increasing levels of perceived anxiety and overall stress (el-Defrawy., et al. 1986). Thus in a situation where our tryptophan is stolen from serotonin production to excitotoxic outcomes, the brain attempts to increase serotonin formation by way of craving, in particular sugar! Sugar is the primary driver to increase an insulin response, which increases the oxidation of tryptophan into serotonin (Inam Q., et al. 2016). Essentially in an environment of yeast overgrowth and poor serotonin levels, one is left between a psychological rock and a physiological hard place.
Psychology sets a program within our framework in which we handle the stressors of life. During times of heightened distress, specific control centres in our minds shift, along with neurotransmitter balance (psychiatry advisor., 2015). Anxiety, depression, anger and even apathy are all possible outcomes to heighten psychological trauma, trauma which can totally offset a healthy psychological control over what one consumes, especially sugar! Addressing sugar addiction by not only focusing on the consumption but also considering the mind-state within which one quelches a specific state, may provide a therapy that not only liberates a physiological addiction by psychological dependence.
Sugar addiction comes with many layers, some of which we can peel by eliminating foreign particles from the gut, others by addressing the need for precursors for optimal neurotransmitter production and function, yet total revamp of one addictive nature to sugar should consider all aspects that make up the nature of addiction, namely: mind, body and to those who are inclined to believe (like me) soul. Healing, therefore, entails that we shift our view from a reductionist ideal to a holistic understanding, one in which we permanently shift the allostatic norm throughout our bodies and total health care practice.
Goodhart PJ, DeWolf WE Jr, Kruse LI. 1983. Mechanism-based inactivation of dopamine beta-hydroxylase by p-cresol and related alkylphenols. Biochemistry. 1983 Jun 21; 22 (13):3091-6
Voora V., Bermudez S., Larrea C., 2019. Global market sugar report. [online] Available at: < https://www.iisd.org/system/files/publications/ssi-global-market-report-sugar.pdf>
Roser M., 2019. Future population growth. [online] Available at: < https://ourworldindata.org/future-population-growth>
Naviaux R K., 2019. Metabolic features and regulation of the healing cycle—A new model for chronic disease pathogenesis and treatment. Mitochondrion 46 (2019) 278-297
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Harvard health Publishing., 2022. The Sweet danger of sugar. [online]Available at: < https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar>
Psychology Today., 2022. What is addiction. [online] Available at: < https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/basics/addiction>
Colomer E., 2013. Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. [online] Available at: < http://dicereglobal.com/albert-einstein-english/#:~:text=Albert%20Einstein%20%3A%20%E2%80%9CInsanity%20is%20doing,again%20and%20expecting%20different%20results.%E2%80%9D&text=Widely%20known%20are%20the%20words,is%20the%20essence%20of%20innovation.>
Rada P., Avena N M., Hoebel B G,. 2005. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. [online] Available at: < https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15987666/>
Bisaglia M., Soriano M E., Arduini I., Mammi S., Bubacco L., 2010. Molecular mechanisms of dopamine-derived quinones reactivity toward NADH and glutathione: implications for mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinsons disease. [online] Available at: < https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20600874/>
Saplakoglu Y., 2019. Sugary western diets fuel newly evolving superbug. [online] Available at:< https://www.livescience.com/evolving-superbug-sugar-diet.html>
Brial F., Alzaid F., Sonomura K., 2020. The natural metabolite 4-cresol improves glucose homeostasis and enhances beta cell function. [online] Available at:< https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/pdf/S2211-1247(20)30091-7.pdf>
Davis I and Liu A., 2015. What is the tryptophan kynurenine pathway and why is it important to Neurotherapy?. [online] Available at:< https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482796/>