Sugar is the one to blame for wrinkly skin and love handles, so why is it that people keep consuming it by the pounds each year? Brooke Alpert, co-author of The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Look Years Younger, explains the consequences of a sugary diet, aside from weight gain. And Alpert's co-author, dermatologist Patricia Farris, sheds light on what happens when there is too much sugar flowing regularly in the bloodstream.

"It starts attacking your skin," she said. "All that sugar attaches to those protein molecules, collagen and elastin. And it turns those beautiful, supple skin cells into these firm, rigid things causing sagging, wrinkling, everything we don't want on our face."

Collagen is the primary structural protein of the skin, and without its firm hold, wrinkles, sagging, hollowness, and fine line are sure to paint a not-so-pretty picture. Sugar's direct attack on these essential proteins, which make up 80 percent of the skin's structure and body's tendons and ligaments, is dangerous, unhealthy, and should be avoided at all costs.

The book encourages ignoring sugar cravings, fighting past the temptations all around, and starting a three-day detox.

"Studies have shown that the withdrawal from sugar are equal to that of cocaine or other hardcore drugs," Farris said. The consequences of going cold turkey are depression, the shakes, crankiness, and generally not fun to be around.

A Princeton University study proves just that; according to research psychologists, urges to eat sugar may be a form of addiction and share some of the same physiological characteristics of drug dependence. Researchers found that when animals were given a daily supply sugar and then a portion of the supply was decreased, they exhibited signs of withdrawal such as teeth chattering. Animals that binged on normal food with no sugar did not show signs of withdrawal, and even animals that were given a regular intake of food and sugar water did not show signs of withdrawal.

A change in brain chemistry actually takes place when sugar triggers the brain to produce natural opioids, a chemical that resemble morphine's pharmacological effects found primarily in the central nervous system.

"We think that is a key to the addition process," said Bart Hoebel, Princeton neuroscientist who led the study. "The brain is getting addicted to its own opioids as it would morphine or heroin. Drugs give a bigger effect, but it is essentially the same process."

The study concluded and coincided with Alpert and Farris' assertion that high levels of sugar will cause withdrawal, similar to that of a cocaine addict. The Princeton researchers suggest the term should not be "sugar addict," but rather "sugar-dependent."

In order to avoid the foreboding withdrawals, Farris recommends replacing the everyday sweet snack with a fruit plus a protein. The sugar will simulate the same reaction in the brain, and the protein will maintain the blood sugars at a steady pace.

"We actually need sugar; it's our body's preferred fuel," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. "But we eat too damn much of it."

According to the American Heart Association, men should not consume more than 9 tablespoons or 45 grams of sugar daily, while women should limit their sugar intake to only 6 tablespoons or 30 grams each day. This recommended sugar intake refers exclusively to added sugar, which means it does not apply to certain foods such as fruits, which are a natural source of sugar and do not affect health negatively.

The average American consumes a total of 95 to 100 lbs. of sugar every year, which translates to almost 9 tablespoons every day. And health experts aren't sugar-coating the fact that the consistently above-average consumption of sugar is a definite contributor to the obesity crisis.

It's important to learn how to limit your sugar intake in order to avoid sugar-dependency, wrinkles, and weight gain. Take these five tips and tricks to cut enough sugar out of your daily diet to stay healthy and happy.

1. Know how to calculate your sugar intake. An easy rule of thumb is to limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake. For example, if you consume 1,800 calories a day, which is the average sustainable calorie count for women, only 10 percent or 180 calories should derive from sugar consumption. This equals to 11 ¼ teaspoons of sugar, clearly more than the recommended daily, but still a good rule for a fast-paced life. Just incorporate three-day detoxes once a month and the sugar balance should return to a healthy level.

2. Cut down on processed and packaged foods. This includes salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, soups, condiments, and even pizza crust products that elusively sneak in added sugar.

3. Don't completely ban the delicious sweets you do crave. Just limit yourself to your favorite sweet of the highest quality that you can afford. More satisfaction will come from enjoying one truffle than from five pieces of cheap office candy. A sense of reward will result in limiting sweets, and a new value for sugar intake should take over.

4. Know what sugars are! Nutrition education is one of the most primarily important life lessons to learn, especially at a young age. Look for the infamous ingredients: glucose, lactose, maltodextrin, and dextrose. Read and understand what is going into your body and how it's being processed. High fructose corn syrup is everywhere these days, and although certain ad campaigns try to disseminate the message that it's not bad for you, it's important to realize because it's everywhere, the constant consumption has largely understated health risks.

5. Don't drink your sugar. This means soda, which has a strong link to overweight and obese Americans. Soda used to be a dessert or occasional treat, but has now become a staple beverage of the American diet. This liquid candy is easy to forget about, but just as dangerous, if not more, than the easily identifiable sugar spoilers. These are also empty calories that don't fill you up, but keep your brain wanting more.

Considering the eating culture today is laced with sugar and deceiving ingredients, it can seem overwhelming and somewhat of a challenge to focus on a cleaner diet. But it is possible, even in the busiest of work schedules and personal lives. It's time for a newer, healthier nation, and that starts with a newer healthier you.