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If You've Ever Tried to Quit Sugar, You May Relate to Jennifer Lopez's 10-Day Challenge Struggles


Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

If you’ve ever tried to cut added or processed sugar out of your diet, you might relate to Jennifer Lopez’s struggle during her latest 10-day diet challenge and “sugar addiction.”

On Wednesday, JLo revealed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that her trainer suggested she try a 10-day challenge to cut out added sugar and carbs from her diet in preparation for an upcoming role. Lopez told the talk show host it was much harder than she expected, especially because sugar made up so much of her diet.

“Not only do you get a headache, but you feel like you’re in an alternate reality or universe,” she said. “Like you don’t feel like yourself. You realize that you’re addicted to sugar. And I’m thinking about it all the time. I’m like, ‘When can I have sugar again? I’m going to have cookies and then I’m going to have bread and then I’m going to have bread with butter.’”

Added sugars are in many of the foods we eat, including soda, fruit drinks, candy, cookies and other baked goods, cereal, flavored yogurts and even non-sugary foods like bread, soup and cured meat. By one report, each American consumes around 150 pounds of sugar every year.

Naturally occurring sugar from whole foods with carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, grain and dairy is an important part of the human diet. According to Harvard Health, your body breaks down these whole foods slowly so you have a regular stream of energy. Your affinity for sweet foods is also adaptive — it helps humans determine which foods (like fruit) are more likely to contain vitamin C.

Though “sugar addiction” isn’t considered an official diagnosis and is highly debated, some scientists have suggested refined sugar’s effects on your brain may be similar to cocaine. However, because sugar is an important part of the human diet, humans seek it out intentionally, unlike other substances like cocaine and alcohol. From this perspective, it’s not sugar itself that’s addicting, but perhaps having too much of it.

“From an eating, metabolism and obesity point of view, sugar is not this terrific demon by itself, because of some innate property of it,” Hisham Ziauddeen, a psychiatrist at the University of Cambridge, told The Guardian. “Where the problem lies is that there are huge amounts of sugar that are put into various foods that substantially boost the calorie content of those foods.”

Too much sugar can have a negative impact on your health beyond its potentially addictive properties.

“The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke,” Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Harvard Health.

More research is needed, but inflammation is one of the reasons too much processed or refined sugar can have a negative impact on your health. Some studies have show that overdoing it on refined sugar can trigger an increase in cytokines, a chemical in your immune system that leads to inflammation. In addition, as your blood sugar levels rise, your body may produce more advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs have been linked to inflammation associated with diabetes, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

For those with autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation can lead to increased joint pain as inflammation leads to swelling. It’s the connection between sugar and inflammation that is likely the cause of heart problems too. So in addition to those with diabetes working to cut sugar out of their diets for health reasons, if you have a chronic illness linked to inflammation, you may also be working to cut out sugar to reduce your symptoms.

Though it was hard at first, Lopez said she’s glad she took the challenge. Once she was finished, she found her craving for extra sugars and carbs decreased. She added it was a reduction in inflammation that really made a difference.

Header image via Jennifer Lopez’s Facebook page.