While sugar found in its natural state can direct us to healthy foods, when it’s extracted and concentrated our bodies are fooled. Most people eat more of something if it’s sweet. Food manufactures get us to consume more by adding sugar. Of course there’s lots of sugar in candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, and soda, but it’s also added to breads, muffins, bagels, condiments, salad dressings, yogurt, coffee, chai, and juice. In the era of getting food from warehouse club stores and fast food restaurants, we have definitely been inclined to consume more.
White sugar or sucrose is a disaccharide (two-sugars), meaning it’s made up of two monosaccharides (one-sugar) fructose and glucose. While glucose is our prime energy source, fructose can be used as fuel as well, but requires additional “work” to be useable. High-fructose corn syrup is basically glucose syrup with more than half the glucose converted to fructose. Our bodies have a series of biochemical pathways that convert sugar into energy. These steps require many nutrients, including a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Refined sugar is devoid of these nutrients. When we eat sources of calories without the nutrients required to burn the fuel (sugar), we must steal those nutrients from our body. If we fill up on empty calories, we are being overfed and undernourished. This is much of the reason we see escalating rates of disease. This is not simply a matter of putting on a few extra pounds. The health consequences are devastating, ultimately leading to loss of quality of life, expensive medical care, and a shortened life span. And don’t be deceived in thinking taking supplements can make up for this.
An average teen in American is consuming 34 teaspoons of added sugar per day! For an adult the average is about 22! Multiply those numbers by 4.2 (grams of sugar in a teaspoon) and you get about 143 grams and 92 grams respectively. That’s about 370 calories for adults and 570 for teens. Now it takes about 3,500 extra calories to equal one pound of extra body fat. Divide 3,500 by 370; so in as little as nine and a half days you can gain a pound from that much extra sugar in the diet. Multiply that out for the year and you’ve just gained over 38 lbs! At least half of the excess sugar is coming from sugar-laden beverages. A can of soda has about eight teaspoons of sugar or 130 calories. And even diet sodas are associated with more weight gain; likely the result of a confused satiety mechanism and increased caloric intake.
Is sugar addictive? Most assertively yes! It is not an exaggeration to compare sugar consumption with heroin or cocaine addictions. Both sugar and heroin trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain. Wikipedia defines addiction as: [simply substitute “sugar” for the words “a drug”]
In medical terminology, an addiction… is characterized by one of the following: the continued use of a substance despite its detrimental effects, impaired control over the use of a drug (compulsive behavior), and preoccupation with a drug's use for non-therapeutic purposes (i.e. craving the drug).
In addition, ample scientific evidence exists to conclude that many processed foods containing concentrated food flavoring additives, salt, and sugar as sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup are addictive.
The observational and empirical data strengthen the hypothesis that certain refined food consumption behaviors meet the criteria for substance use disorders, not unlike tobacco and alcohol.
This is no surprise considering how humans were designed to live in a harsh world. The survival of higher life-forms is guided by three powerful forces: seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, and conserving energy. These three have been called the “motivational triad” and until recently served us well. With the invention of modern chemistry and food processing our internal pleasure guidance system is easily short-circuited. The sensation of sweet that led primitive peoples to eat whole foods have been replaced with foods full of trickery, namely sugar and flavor additives. Instead of guiding us to nutrient dense foods in nature, we are directed towards modern nutrient depleted foods, such as those containing refined sugar and flour. Research has shown that combining lots of sugar with high fat foods like whole milk, aka ice cream, suppresses the satiety mechanisms in the brain. Now you know why it’s tough to only eat half a pint.
It’s now certain that sugar in all its artificially concentrated forms is contributing to the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, anxiety, poor concentration, and premature aging, not to mention all the other conditions related to poor nutrition like low immunity and tooth decay. Kids are even getting diseases once reserved for the old, as each subsequent generation falls prey to the pleasure trap of sugar.
Well meaning parents trying to get their child to eat become inadvertent “pushers” of sugar. Most parents know the challenges of getting kids to eat well; with regular exposure to junk food, it can become nearly impossible to get your child to eat anything wholesome. Hyperactivity and other neurological and behavior problems in kids are often related to a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates. We live in sad and tragic times when a child gets medicated when all he needs is real food. He’s getting plenty of calories while his little body is starving for nutrients.
What’s the answer? “Eat less sugar.” That’s easy to say, but tough to implement. Understanding the long term ramifications and recognizing the addictive power of sugar can help you take the matter seriously. In my experience, there are often associated problems such as adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, and hormonal imbalances that promote sugar cravings. Taking a holistic approach by discovering your metabolic type (what your unique diet and nutrient needs are) and balancing your internal signals can put you on a health improvement plan that works for life.
Contact Dr. Graves and doctors at the Janzen Health Center to discover how to begin.