Why We Crave Sugar So Much – An Evolutionary Explanation
Whether it is that extra serving of your favorite ice cream, or an incredible dessert at an Italian restaurant, we seem to have an incessant desire to consume sweet foods.
If we were asked us why we craved sugar so much, we might shrug and say, ‘We just do.’
However, the answer to this question may have deep evolutionary roots.
We should probably blame our ancestors for this ‘sweet tooth’. Let’s further explore the idea:
Sugar – An Ancient Craving
According to Richard Johnson, a medicine professor at the University of Colorado, our early ancestors went through a continuous period of starvation almost 15 million years ago.
He postulates that this must have been the time when the mutation occurred that enhanced the ape’s sensitivity to fructose and their ability to store it as fat for energy.
The idea is that eating fructose was a survival mechanism, meaning that disliking sugar at that time was not a very popular choice. The craving has been packed in our DNA and has passed on through generations.
The Feel-Good Aspect
Sugar not only allowed our ancestors to store fat reserves, it also released a ‘feel-good’ chemical called dopamine. These bursts of the neurotransmitter ensured that our ancestors also liked eating sugar.
This also explains why hunter-gatherers went the extra mile to acquire honey. Eating sweet foods triggered the reward systems in their brains.
Where the Problem Lies
From an evolutionary point of view, it is clear that sugar helped us survive those times.
However, the sugar that the hunter-gatherer societies ate was no sweeter than a carrot—except honey, of course.
It was later that farming methods and technology made sugar dangerously sweet. This is the reason that the same sugar craving is working against us now.
From pastries to sodas, each of the sweet items are rich in fats, starch and glutamate—and hence the prevailing issue of obesity.
In short, although sugar helped us get through tough times in the past, it is not doing us any good now. We must realize that the amount of sugar we pour into our bodies is, in no way, appropriate, and may lead to serious illnesses.
With her experience of helping clients get rid of obesity, Rena Greenberg understands the concept of sweet tooth and how it may be causing weight gain.