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Why It’s so Hard to Stop Eating Sugar

How many times have you set out to develop new eating habits? You get excited about the move toward a healthier lifestyle and stock up on snacks that don’t have added sugar. You do great for a few days, and then the inevitable sugar cravings kick in. And once you have a little sugar they just become worse. What’s going on?

It’s not that you lack willpower. It’s so hard to stop eating sugar because our bodies have evolved to seek on the sweet stuff. That was helpful during the hunter-gatherer days, but now that we have access to more sugar than anyone could ever need those biological advantages have become disadvantages. Here’s what science says about why it’s so hard to stop eating sugar.

Your body is programmed to want more.

When humans were trying to survive in prehistoric times sugar was a rare treat that could mean the difference between life and death. In fact, our bodies even mutated to be able to eat sugar and store it as fat. At the time, that was great for survival. Now, it can be detrimental to our health.

Our society’s love affair with sugar has developed much more quickly than evolutionary changes can occur, so even though we have an excess of sugar around us, our bodies always want more.

It’s hiding everywhere.

If you’re skipping the sweets, you know to avoid candy, sweetened beverages and baked goods. But sugar is hiding in many foods you would never think of as sweet, from bread to pasta sauce.

One reason it’s hard to find hidden sugar is because it goes by a variety of names. When you’re looking at the ingredients list of a product, avoid cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, honey, liquid fructose, molasses, or any type of syrup. Those are all sugar by another name.

It really can be addictive.

If you’ve ever felt sugar’s pull is just too strong to resist, you might be right. Many experts believe that sugar can be addictive. One study found that even rats that were addicted to cocaine preferred sweetened water over the drug. This suggested to the authors that sugar’s reward in the brain can be even more powerful than that of cocaine.

If you’ve found it hard to quit sugar, you’re not alone. That’s why it’s important to get any tools you can to help you kick the habit.