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Why Do Men and Women Crave Sugar?

Apr 23, 2010

It's common to crave sugar, and both men and women get sugar cravings for the same reasons. Sugar cravings stem from both physical and psychological causes. Here are some of the reasons why you might be craving sugar.

Sugar Gives You Energy

One of the reasons you crave sugar is that eating sugar gives you a rush of energy. When you're tired or stressed, especially if you haven't eaten for a few hours, your blood sugar levels will drop and you may feel fatigued, irritable, moody and groggy. Sugary foods raise your blood sugar levels instantly to relieve the fatigue and mood swings associated with low blood sugar levels.

Stress also interferes with adrenal function and can cause rushes of adrenaline. When these adrenaline rushes subside, you'll find your energy levels lower than ever, and feel the urge to reach for a sugary treat to bring them back up.

Sugar Makes You Feel Good

Sweet, sugary fruits and berries are packed with vitamins and minerals, so human beings evolve to be hardwired to enjoy sweet foods. For this reason, when you eat sugar, your brain absorbs more of the amino acid tryptophan from your blood. Your brain uses tryptophan to manufacture serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well being and elevated mood. The effect on your mood is the same whether you eat fruit or refined sugar; however, consuming refined sugar can lead to wide swings in blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and malnutrition, since treats made with refined sugar don't typically contain the same healthy nutrients found in fruits and berries.

Psychological Reasons for Sugar Cravings

Many people seek emotional comfort from food, and sweet, sugary food can be especially comforting since it raises your serotonin levels and makes you feel happier for a brief time. If you find yourself eating sugary foods because you're bored or because you feel it helps you cope with problems in your life, you may be comfort eating. Your sugar cravings could be a psychological response to boredom or upsetting situations.

Sugar cravings can also occur by force of habit. If you're accustomed to having a sweet dessert after your evening meal, you might find yourself cravings sweets if you try to cut out your dessert. If you're in the habit of snacking, and then you try to reduce your snacking, you might find yourself craving sugar by force of habit at the times you were once accustomed to snack.

Sugar Cravings Could Be the Result of Sugar Addiction

When you eat sugar, your brain releases opioids, a natural chemical that leads to feelings of pleasure and happiness. Scientific research into drug addiction has shown that heroin and morphine stimulate your brain in the same way as does sugar. 

Unfortunately, it's easy to get addicted to sugar, because it's present in so many of the foods we eat. Ketchup and other sauces, beverages, breakfast cereals, yogurt and even bread contain unhealthy amounts of sugar. The average American consumes 160 pounds of sugar each year without even realizing it, so it's possible that you're addicted to sugar even if you eat a minimal amount of sweets.

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