Sweet foods are very enticing for most people. But why?
The answer lies in the brain. A group of chemicals (dopamine, serotonin and beta-endorphins) regulate cravings for these types of foods and are responsible for the pleasure and wellbeing sensations that they create. Read on to learn more about each of these chemicals.
Serotonin: An important amino acid, tryptophan, produces serotonin in the brain and is found mainly in proteins. By consuming sugar, serotonin is released, which in a healthy amount is important for making a person feel at peace and to have wellbeing.
Beta-endorphins and dopamine: Sugar functions similarly to how drugs act in the brain, as both sugar and other processed carbohydrates increase the amount of sugar in the blood, causing the amounts of some chemicals to increase. When we eat sugar, the same areas of the brain are activated that are involved in addictions to nicotine and to other drugs. This produces chemicals such as beta-endorphins, which are involved in sensations of euphoria and in reducing the ability to feel pain, making individuals feel an almost uncontrollable urge to eat more.
Dopamine, on the other hand, contributes to movement and emotional expression.
The WHO recommends consuming less than 25 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of a tablespoon.
Sugar is said to be “the cigarette of the 21st century” and should therefore be regulated in a similar way. According to the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and the Queen Mary University of London, sugar is found in most foods, even in products such as non-fat yogurt or savory foods. According to data from the 2016 Intenational Congress of Nutrition, one of every four people will be obese in the world by the year 2045.
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