Picture this: you’re gathered around the dinner table after having the most amazing holiday meal. Surrounded by your friends and family you’re stuffed to the brim with food and happiness. Through the loud roar of conversation and bursts of hearty laughter, an anxiety inducing question is heard above all, “Who’s ready for dessert?” You reply, “Of course, there’s always room for dessert!”
I know this scenario all too well, whether it’s during the holidays with family, catching up over dinner with friends, or just grabbing a bite out on the town, dessert is always offered as a delicious way to end a meal. But why is it that, even when we want to say no, we always say yes to the smile inducing treat? I’ve gathered three evidence based explanations on why we have such a hard time saying no to sweets.
I’m only human!
Author of The Psychology of Overeating: Food and the Culture of Consumerism, states in an article that as mammals, it is in our nature to take a liking to sweet. It is stronger and more prevalent in our preference than any other taste! This is because our pleasure center of the brain has adapted to like the sugars in breast milk to encourage suckling. So naturally, we just prefer sweeter foods! This innate preference helps us from eating foods that are potentially dangerous to us, which is why we don’t love bitter or sour tastes. (Cargill, K.)
Sweet tooth, or sweet BRAIN? The pleasure center of our brain responds positively to sugar. But what happens when we overstimulate this pleasure center? Well, some scientists are drawing parallels of sugar addiction, to drug addiction. Yep, you read right! Sugar can release the same chemicals that are released during a high. A study was done on rats where they were given a low dose of amphetamines daily for 5 days. After the 5 days, both the sensitized and control rats were given access to a 10% sucrose solution for 1 hour for another 5 days. The rats that were amphetamine-sensitized consumed more sucrose in the 5 days than the control rats who weren’t sensitized to the drug. These results suggest that sugar may be acting on the same way on the brain than that of drug use. (Avena N., Hoebel B.)
Just one bite? Yea right!
Consumption of high-sucrose foods numbs the brains anorexigenic oxytocin system. (King, H.) Basically, eating a bunch of sugar will numb our sensors that prevent us from over eating. You know what they mean here, that second stomach we have just for desserts! When we’re not getting those signals that we're full, we will continue to eat! Additionally, those pleasure centers mentioned above also receive an overflow of hormones and they too have reduced activity which means we need more sugar to get the same response from our pleasure centers. Satiety-related responses to the pleasure receptors and their systems may be especially vulnerable to sugar and our reward circuits in our brains. (Mitra, A., Gosnell, B.)
Anaya Mitra, B. A. (2010, April 22). US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved Novemer 6, 2018, from National Center for Biotechnology : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3175817/
Cargill, K. (April, 2016). Sugar Highs and Lows: Is Sugar Really a Drug?Retrieved November 2018, 2018, from National American Notes Online: https://nanocrit.com/issues/issue9/sugar-highs-and-lows-sugar-really-drug
King, H. T. (n.d.). What Sugar Does to Your Brain. Retrieved from Keck Medicine of USC: https://www.keckmedicine.org/what-sugar-does-to-your-brain/
Nicole Avena, B. H. (2003, February ). Amphetamine-sensitized rats show sugar-induced hyperactivity (cross-sensitization) and sugar hyperphagia. Retrieved November 6, 2018, from Science Direct: https://www-sciencedirect-com.jpllnet.sfsu.edu/science/article/pii/S009130570201050X
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