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Americans battle with sugar addiction

Donuts in multicolored glaze close-up (Thinkstock)

NATIONWIDE (WGME) -- Across the country households are full of candy as kids and adults make their way through the Halloween leftovers, but just how much candy do we eat?

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American consumes 3.4 pounds of candy over Halloween.

According to the American Journal for Public Health, Americans have increased their average sugar consumption by 30-percent over the last 30 years.

The bags of Halloween candy are out and for some the temptation can be downright scary.

“In the last three weeks, I’ve eaten three bags between Kit-Kats and Reese’s peanut butter cups, so it's a problem,” Lisa Clark, addicted to sugar, said.

That's more than 78 snack size candy bars.

"I mean I’m ashamed of how much I’ve eaten of it,” Clark said. “For me it makes me feel so good in the moment eating sugar. I just can't explain it."

Dr. Sean McCloy practices at Integrative Health Center of Maine in Portland.

"I tell my patients sugar is poison,” Dr. McCloy said. "Current research show us sugar lights up the same areas of our brain like other addictive substances like cocaine or opioids. So, there are certain chemicals in our brain that get released when we eat sugar or other addictive foods as well."

The Department of Agriculture recommends men consume no more than 45 grams of sugar per day. The number for women is more than 30.

In reality, Americans eat and drink an average of 94 grams of sugar every day.

Nutritionist Sara Sullivan deals with the sugar habit up close and personal.

"It's a habit because it's in everything,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan says 9 out of 10 people she sees is struggling with some form of sugar addiction.

"With two out of three Americans being obese or overweight and one out of every three Americans being pre-diabetic or diabetic, we need to make drastic changes to the way we're eating and I think that really involves reducing sugar in foods,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, you can start by eating fewer processed foods and more fruits and vegetables and those sugar cravings won't be as intense.

She also recommends consuming natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar.

"That could be maple syrup. It could be honey and I love to use dates,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan says a half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help too.

If changing your diet alone isn't getting the results you're looking for, Sullivan recommends adding supplements to your daily routine.

"Chromium which helps to regulate blood sugar. There's vitamin B which regulates blood sugar and helps assist in adrenal functions. Then there is probiotics. Probiotics re-inoculate the gut with good bacteria which reduces sugar cravings,” Sullivan said.

Clark knows she needs to eat healthier, but also take her mission to break a sugar addiction a step further.

“I know that I have a problem with sugar,” Clark said. “I just can't have it in the house."

Sullivan recommends getting into the habit of reading labels to see how much sugar is in your food and drinks.

She suggests getting refined sugar out of your diet, but like anything else, it's best to consume in moderation.

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