Craving Halloween Candy? Here’s Why
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1. The arguably more intriguing aspect of our response to sugar is the release of the hormone dopamine.
2. Refined sugars are often linked with depression because not only do they fail to provide the body any nutrients, but they also consume vitamins such as vitamin B, the “mood-enhancing” vitamin.
With Halloween right around the corner, I am sure that we have already started to crave sweets. Some of us may have even dipped into the Christmas season, starting each day with hot cocoa and ending on a candy cane. What is it that makes us so addicted to sweets? The answer is simple: hormones.
You may notice that eating a bar of chocolate or a bag of Skittles gives you a temporary feeling of happiness. This is because candy contains a processed sugar known as sucrose that triggers the release of endorphins upon entering the bloodstream. This boosts mood and provides a temporary chemical “high.” However, the arguably more intriguing aspect of our response to sugar is the release of the hormone dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It is also the hormone that is related to the addiction to opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine. Unsurprisingly, a Princeton University study found that rats given a considerable amount of sugar in their diet became sugar-dependent and showed signs of anxiety when their diets reverted back to normal. But do not fear! Dopamine is a significant part of the brain’s reward system, and even the simple acts of eating our favorite foods or listening to music can cause its release. So even if you have a sweet tooth, an addiction to sugar is nowhere near as severe or lasting compared to that of the aforementioned drugs. Of course, the fact that they are even mildly addictive is a sign that sweets should be consumed in reasonable portions.
As much as candies and other sweets give us a temporary boost in mood, there is no denying that we feel sluggish after eating too many. This is because sugar is also a sedative whose aftereffects are considerably stronger than the little “kick” it initially triggers. When you intake large amounts of processed sugar, your body inhibits the production of orexin, which is a chemical in your brain that stimulates the feeling of being awake. As a result, you feel sleepy a few minutes after consuming treats with high amounts of sugar. This feeling of sleepiness may also be coupled with a sluggish attitude or mood, and while some believe that it is simply because we are descending from a high, there may be a bigger explanation. Refined sugars are often linked with depression because not only do they fail to provide the body any nutrients, but they also consume vitamins such as vitamin B, the “mood-enhancing” vitamin.
Other health issues come with not controlling sugar intake, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and fatty liver disease. Considering the time of the year, it may be hard to control sugar intake, so rather than eliminating sugar, try better alternatives. Instead of store-bought candies and milk chocolate, opt for dark chocolate or chocolate protein bars. Protein essentially reverses the effects sugar has on orexin, energizing you and keeping you awake. Homemade gummies, granola bars, and healthy trail mixes are also a great option. Sugar-free candies, such as some mints, are another great alternative. However, they should be taken in moderation, considering that a popular sweetener—maltitol—does act as a laxative. Unfortunately, other non-laxative sweeteners are not naturally derived, and the body has trouble detoxifying itself of these substances.
Regardless, we all deserve to treat ourselves every so often, and with Halloween approaching, we have another reason to do so. Of course, given all the side effects and science behind sugar, we should consume it in moderation or opt for healthier alternatives if we have trouble controlling our intake.