TV medic Dr Michael Mosley is urging us to ditch sugar if we want to be “truly healthy”.
For many, what starts as a “few squares” of chocolate, ends in the entire bar being demolished.
It may seem like a lack of willpower, but the host of the BBC’s “Trust Me, I'm a Doctor” explains eating the sweet stuff triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals.
Yet, cutting back may be easier said than done, with research suggesting chocaholics experience the same “high” as drug addicts.
“To truly maintain a healthier diet, high-sugar foods have to go,” Dr Mosley, creator of the Fast 800 programme, told Yahoo UK.
“Cutting down on sugar will not only be good for your waistline, but your overall health.”
Public Health England’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveals between 10% and 12% of the average Brit’s calorie intake comes from sugar.
This is considerably more than the government’s recommendation of no more than 5%.
As few as 9% of adults have a sugar intake of 5% or less relative to their overall calorie consumption.
Overindulging has a clear effect on our waistline and teeth.
With obesity linked to everything from heart attacks and strokes to type 2 diabetes and even cancer, cutting back on sugar could do your health the world of good.
Yet, it may be easier said than done.
READ MORE: 10 surprising foods full of hidden sugar
“From the first bite, consuming sugary food triggers a cascade of neural events that leads to a powerful urge to keep eating,” Mr Mosley said.
“Within the midbrain, pathways release dopamine, driving sugar addiction by rewarding and reinforcing consumption.
“Studies have shown the neural chains transmitting pleasure from eating sugar are very similar to those activated by cocaine and heroin.
“Indeed neuroimaging has shown structural similarities between the brains of obese people and those with established hard drug addictions.”
A 2007 study by the University of Bordeaux gave rats access to either water containing the calorie-free sweetener saccharin or IV cocaine.
Nearly all (94%) opted for the sugary solution, even when the drug dose went up.
The scientists concluded “clearly intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward”.
How to cut back on sugar
Breaking a sugar “addiction” is never easy, but a few lifestyle tweaks can set you on the right track.
“It takes resilience and determination to change a habit, and it often only works if you find a substitute,” Dr Mosley said.
For those who crave a chocolate “fix”, the rich taste of dark varieties may satisfy your sweet tooth in just a few bites.
“I have at least 85% or 90% cocoa these days,” Dr Mosley said. “A couple of squares now and again.”
While many reach for breakfast cereals to start their day, these are often loaded with sugar, “even the ones that contain bran”.
Swap for porridge - made from scratch - with berries, apples or pears on top.
When it comes to the mid-afternoon slump, snack on unsalted nuts or vegetable crudités to tide you over until dinner.
The good news is you can still indulge in dessert, just limit how often.
“No more than once or twice a week and preferably less,” Dr Mosley said.
Sugary sodas have often been blamed for the UK’s obesity problem, particularly among children.
In an attempt to combat this, the British government introduced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April 2018.
Dr Moseley recommends ditching soda and fruit juice altogether for water.
Try sparkling water infused with wedges of citrus fruit or cucumber for extra flavour.
For those trying to lose weight, it is also important not to be seduced by “low fat” options.
“Low fat generally means all the good stuff has been removed, and replaced with sugar and nasty additives,” Dr Mosley said.
“These are often filled with sugar in order to make them palatable.
“Full-fat products will keep you feeling fuller for longer.”
Do not be put off if it takes you a while to get used to your new eating regimen.
“It is normal to experience sugar cravings in the first few days,” Dr Mosley said.
“Your body is in the process of adapting and doesn’t like it, hence the insidious urge to get you to eat more sugar.
“Ultimately if you give in to those cravings you will set off an infernal cycle of sugar spikes and slumps, which will leave you feeling awful.”