Sugar Season Its Everywhere its Addictive

Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere & it’s Addictive

It is a common scene. There’s a birthday in the office, you and your co-workers have all chipped in for a cake; your daughter made cookies for a party and you’re in trouble if you don’t dig in; its Easter, it’s Thanksgiving its Christmas, it’s the New Year, it’s a box of chocolates for the one you love…. it’s any celebration you care to name and cakes and candy are arriving thick and fast. Sugar is everywhere. It is celebration, it is festivity, it is love.

It is also dangerous.

Recent studies show that sugar, much more than salt, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Unlike the weak, much debated arguments against, salt, sugar has very real, significant and immediate metabolic effects that are not good for you, de-sensitizing your insulin response being one of the most important, leading to diabetes, chronic inflammation, and the depression of your immune system. Evidence too, that eating too much sugar leads to fatty liver disease, hypertension, obesity and kidney disease. We pretty much know this now but we can’t resist. And the reason for that is pretty simple. Sugar is addictive. By which I don’t mean addictive in the way that people talk about delicious foods. I mean it is addictive, literally, and in the same way as drugs.

The food industry knows this and is doing everything it can to keep us hooked. Until a few hundred years ago, concentrated sugars were essentially absent from the human diet, except perhaps, the fortuitous find of small quantities of wild honey. Sugar was a rare source of energy in the environment, and strong cravings for it actually benefited human survival. Sugar cravings would have prompted searches for sweet foods, the kind that help us layer on fat and store energy for times of scarcity.

Today added sugar is everywhere, used in approximately 75 percent of packaged foods purchased in the United States. The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day. If you consider that the added sugar in a single can of soda might be more than most people would have consumed in an entire year a couple of hundred years ago, you are beginning to get the sense of how dramatically our environment has changed. The sweet craving that once offered a survival advantage now works against us.

While natural sugar sources in whole fruits and vegetables are generally not very concentrated because the sweetness is buffered by water, fiber and other constituents, modern industrial sugar sources are unnaturally potent and quickly provide a huge sugar hit. Natural whole foods like beets and corn are stripped of their water, fiber, vitamins, minerals and all other beneficial components to produce purified sweetness. All that’s left are pure, white, sugary crystals or an incredibly sweet sticky syrup. The comparison to drugs is clearly not misplaced here. Similar refinement processes transform other plants like poppies and coca into heroin and cocaine. Refined sugars also affect people’s bodies and brains.

And it can kill you.

Substance use disorders, defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, exist when at least two to three symptoms from a list of 11 are present. In animal models, sugar produces at least three symptoms consistent with substance abuse and dependence: cravings, tolerance and withdrawal. Other druglike properties of sugar include (but are not limited to) cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward, opioid effects and other neurochemical changes in the brain. In animal studies, animals experience sugar like a drug and can become sugar-addicted. One study has even shown that if given the choice, rats will choose sugar over cocaine in lab settings because the reward is greater; the “high” more pleasurable.

In humans, the situation does not appear to be very different. Sugar stimulates brain pathways just as an opioid would, and sugar has been found to be habit-forming in people. Cravings induced by sugar are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine. And, although other food components may also be pleasurable, sugar is uniquely addictive in the food world. For instance, functional MRI tests involving milkshakes demonstrate that it’s the sugar, not the fat, that people crave. Sugar is added to foods by an industry whose goal is to engineer products to be as irresistible and addictive as possible.

How can we kick the habit? One route is to make foods and drinks with added sugar more expensive, through higher taxes. Another would be to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from places like schools and hospitals or to regulate sugar-added products just as we do alcohol and tobacco, for instance, by putting restrictions on advertising and by slapping on warning labels. But as suggested in two recent academic papers, one on salt and sugar in the journal Open Heart and the other on sugar and calories in Public Health Nutrition, focusing narrowly on added sugar could have unintended consequences. It could prompt the food industry to inject something equally or more harmful into processed foods, as an alternative.

And, rather than have the sugar pushers scream blue murder about the ‘nanny state’ and continue corrupting our public and medical officials, by far the best approach to sugar rehab is to promote the consumption of whole, natural foods. Substituting whole foods for sweet industrial concoctions may be a hard sell, but in the face of an industry that is exploiting our biological nature to keep us addicted, it may be the best solution for those who need that sugar fix.

Waging economic warfare individually and collectively against the corporatist criminal conspiracies that are the major food companies, the major pharmaceutical companies and the major banks is not the reaction of a crank, nor is it ineffective. It is a very sane and potentially effective reaction to organizations that see us as no more than sheep to be shorn and care not a jot that their businesses impoverish us and lead many of us to an early grave. If you think I overstate just check the record and conviction stats over the past decade. Ending, even controlling, a non-self serving sugar habit is actually a very powerful act.

Nor do you have to give up eating sweet food. Just do it in its natural form. Easiest way is eat or add real fruit. Keep added sugars to a minimum. Avoid white refined sugar like the poison it is, addictive, without nutrient no nutrients and bad for you.

If not white sugar, what natural sweeteners are OK?

Raw Honey: teems with anti-bacterial properties. Use organic raw honey. The regular heated and treated product sold at most shops has had so many of its health properties eliminated it’s just syrup.
Palm Sugar: the sap from the tree trunk of a sugar palm tree.
Coconut Sugar: the sap from the flower of a coconut palm tree with a very low glycaemic index coming in a nectar form or dehydrated in the form of sugar granules.
Stevia: 300 times sweeter than sugar so replacing a teaspoon in your coffee you only need 3-4 drops. Stay away from white granulated commercial brands.
Rapadura sugar: is how cane sugar should be produced. It looks like dark brown sugar but is infinitely tastier and more nutritious with the molasses still intact. It’s usually dehydrated to form granules so you can spoon it but you can also buy it before it’s been granulated and this is known as panela or jaggery. You may find it in an Indian food store.

Other nutritious natural sweeteners worth mentioning are Xylitol, molasses, real maple syrup, yacon syrup, rice malt syrup and mesquite powder. Other healthy sweeteners include Xylitol, Maple Sugar and Molasses. Best of all, try to reduce the amount of any added sugar, not already contained naturally in your food. Very quickly you will discover what food tastes intrinsically good and what does not. And, like any recovering junkie, you will feel a whole lot better.

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