From researchers, in their article written for the New York Times about their study of the addictive qualities of sugar:
Sugar is addictive. And we don’t mean addictive in that way that people talk about delicious foods. We mean addictive, literally, in the same way as drugs. And the food industry is doing everything it can to keep us hooked….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 may be uniquely addictive in the food world.
Science is studying the addictive cycle of sugar and here is a sample paper on the findings:
Overall, this research has revealed that sugar and sweet reward can not only substitute to addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive. At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine (i.e., more resistant to functional failures), possibly reflecting past selective evolutionary pressures for seeking and taking foods high in sugar and calories.
Three out of four packaged foods contain hidden sugars. Here is the government again:
Of the 85,451 uniquely formulated foods purchased during 2005 through 2009, 75% contain sweeteners (68% with caloric sweetener only, 1% with noncaloric sweetener only, 6% with both caloric and noncaloric sweeteners). Caloric sweetener are in >95% of cakes/cookies/pies, granola/protein/energy bars, ready-to-eat cereals, sweet snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Noncaloric sweetener are in >33% of yogurts and sport/energy drinks, 42% of waters (plain or flavored), and most dietetic sweetened beverages.
Fructose is deadly, it is more dangerous than most other addictive substances. It’s chronic use leads to 1. Heart disease, 2. high blood pressure, 3. Type 2 diabetes, 4. Fatty Liver Disease (NASH), 5. insulin resistance, 6. obesity. Don’t believe me, this is from Open Heart at bmj.com:
Evidence from epidemiological studies and experimental trials in animals and humans suggests that added sugars, particularly fructose, may increase blood pressure and blood pressure variability, increase heart rate and myocardial oxygen demand, and contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and broader metabolic dysfunction.
Finally, the government is going to recommend that sugar content be quantified on food labels. You know how when you look at a food label you see most of the nutrients described as a percentage of the daily allowance? Here is an example:
Notice the column “% Daily Value” and how every line item has a number in it except for one ingredient? Sugar is 24 grams (6 teaspoons) per serving, but there is no % value for it. That value is known. The World Health Organization has recommended that the average man should have no more than ten grams of sugar per day. That means that the % RDA for sugar on this one food item, chocolate milk, would be 240% of the RDA for sugar for a grown man. Unfortunately, the average man will not just eat this one product containing sugar on the typical day, though. He will eat 75% of the packaged foods that cross his lips containing more sugar. All of the soda that he eats will be sweetened. If he has healthy fruit on top of the pile of sugar that is hidden, it will not be healthy, it will be more fuel on the fire. On average, he will go on to eat 88 grams of sugar. If it’s not a man we are talking about, but a toddler, preschooler or grade schooler, it will lead to agitated behaviour, learning disabilities, and ritalin to fight the effects of all of this sweet addictive poison that is hidden in the diet.
The food industry is not happy, here is what their minions say in response to the suggestion that we be warned when we are being snuck sugar in three out of four bites of our foods:
The proposal brought immediate criticism from manufacturers of foods and beverages, which claimed that the labels would confuse customers and that dietary limits on added sugars were not scientifically justified.
In a compromise move the FDA, in it’s waffling wisdom, will say that the RDA for sugar should be 50 grams. That is five times the WHO recommendation, but it is a whopping 56% reduction to the amount the average US resident gets. Event the American Heart Association thinks it should be a lower recommendation.
- The AHA suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men.
The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which amounts to an extra 350 calories. 22 Teaspoons is 88 grams of sugar a day on average. There are people that get a lot more than that per day, and there are people like me that avoid the stuff like the dangerous drug it is, and get close to zero on the average day.
So the FDA is recommending you cut your sugar consumption in half, and they are going to help you out by making food makers tell you how many chocolate milks you can drink to get that much. Food makers will be dragged kicking and screaming into a new healthy future. Of course, the future is not now….this recommendation will be debated and is coming later.
Way back when, the tobacco industry used to claim that their products were healthy, then they argued that they weren’t unhealthy. For a long time they never lost a product liability lawsuit. Then one day all of the states got together and sued the tobacco industry for damages because of all of the extra money that cigarettes caused them to spend on medicare for citizens. Well, the damage caused by sugar absolutely dwarfs the damage caused by cigarettes. At no time in the nation’s history has one product caused two thirds of the populace to be sick. Well, two out of three of us are overweight. The lawsuit against sugar will totally dwarf the rewards paid out by big tobacco. Mark my words, sugar, keep fighting the future, you are only adding victims to the roles of people you will pay for your behavior.
In the meantime, while this all gets sorted out, YOU should treat sugar like the poison it is. Quit eating processed foods, treat them all like they contain sugar, you will only be wrong one time in four. If you have to have sugar, get it from eating real fruit, in season. Get your energy from eating real meat, real cheese, real butter, real eggs. If you want fiber, eat green leafy vegetables. If you have to have a dressing on your salad, take some real mayonnaise, some real buttermilk and mix them together in equal proportions. Add some salt and pepper and there you have ranch dressing.
Don’t wait for the government, the law, the industry to behave like the stewards of health that they should. You could be dead before that happens, your kids could be just as hooked on sugar as you are by then. Kick now, there has never been a better time.