#Addictive #sugar #salt

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2. You don’t realize how addictive sugar and salt can be
Why do we crave sugar and salt, in particular? For one thing, they taste good. Manufacturers conduct research to determine which food components will tempt consumers’ taste buds the most.

“Our brains are wired to enjoy things which make us happy,” says Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD. “Sugar, in particular, releases brain chemicals that make us feel good.” This leaves us wanting to experience that good feeling over and over again, day after day.

“Many of my patients say they are ‘sugar addicts,’ consuming real sugar and artificial sweeteners in various forms,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.

Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD, adds that “sweet and salty foods and beverages are incredibly addictive. That’s why many processed foods are loaded with them. They trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that motivates us to engage in rewarding behaviors.”

Having fewer receptors for dopamine can trigger overeating. One study found fewer receptors for dopamine in the brains of obese individuals.

Over time, our tolerance for sweet and salty foods builds up, and we need more to reward ourselves. “We’re basically feeding our taste buds,” explains Ms. Titgemeier. “This creates a vicious cycle, because our taste buds typically crave what we feed them.”

It doesn’t help that sugary and salty foods — especially processed foods — are highly accessible. “It’s extremely challenging for kids, in particular, to ignore the natural temptation of these addicting foods and to fight cravings in the school environment and at home,” notes Ms. Willoughby.

Ever drink a diet soda or try sugar-free candy to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding calories? “Many people do, but that only compounds the problem,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick. Study after study shows that switching to diet beverages does not affect weight loss.