10/11/2010 12:21 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Are You A Sugar Addict?

Ever dismiss your regular 4pm craving for biscuits or feel anxious when you don't have some Haribo to hand? Most of us laugh off our need for sugar - after all, compared to swigging a bottle of brandy at lunchtime or smoking 40 cigarettes a day, eating the sweet stuff seems relatively harmless.

Flickr: rhoftonphoto

Scientists in New Zealand discovered in 2009 that eating sugary snacks has a powerful effect on our bodies. Dr Simon Thornley, from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, explained that the increase in blood sugar levels "stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved with addiction to nicotine and other drugs."

Studies on rats by Princeton University researchers showed that they quickly developed addictive behaviours when given sugar, including strong cravings and bingeing. In tests on human volunteers, scientists found that when crack addicts were shown a photo of a crack pipe they displayed the same brain responses as people who were shown a picture of a dish of ice-cream.

While the occasional treat can boost your mood, it's easy for that teatime pick-me-up to become a regular habit. If you're concerned that you're becoming a bit too reliant on sweet treats, find out if you could be an unintentional sugar addict.

Are you putting on weight?

When you eat sugar, the pancreas produces insulin in order to convert it to energy. Unfortunately insulin also promotes fat storage - and the more sugar you consume, the more likely it is that you'll gain weight.

Check your moods

The clearest sign that you could be a sugar addict is to keep a close watch on how you feel before, during and after eating it. The simplest way to do this is to keep a food diary for a few days. Record the cravings you have for particular types of food and what your mood is like after you've eaten it. It's common to have a powerful desire for a particular type of sugary food such as cake or cola, followed by a brief, powerful high while you eat it and then a 'crash' afterwards.

How tired are you?
When sugar addicts reduce or cut out high-sugar foods from their diets, they often experience an overwhelming loss of energy. If you find you're tired all the time when you're not consuming your regular treats, it could be because you're experiencing sugar cold turkey side-effects.

Hidden sugar
If you're convinced you have a super healthy diet, check again. Love fruit smoothies? You could be consuming up to ten teaspoons of sugar per glass. Eat granola every morning? There could be up to five teaspoons of sugar per serving - so choose a sugar-free variety.

Sweet drinks
Make sure you keep a note of what you drink during the day. Many sugar addicts forget that the coffee, alcoholic drinks and colas they consume are feeding their habit. Coca-cola has 14 teaspoons of sugar per 500ml bottle - the RDA for adults is around 12 teaspoons a day.