It wasn’t until I first gave up added sugar back in October 2010 when I came to realize how toxic sugar was and that my health was falling apart. I was addicted to sugar! That was the first time in my life when I had an excruciating headache that lasted for more than a week, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t sleep and I was always hungry no matter how much I ate. I’ve never thought that just cold turkey giving up sugar will give me withdrawal symptoms, nor I’ve ever considered that eating sugar can be as addictive as drinking alcohol or taking drugs. I hear about people going to rehab or dying because of alcohol or drugs, but how about sugar? Is sugar toxic and a killer as well? Is it addictive?
Sugar as a drug
New emerging science is showing that the sugar fructose is much more addictive than we realized earlier on. Eric Stice, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Research Institute, used MRI scanners to learn how the human brain responds to sweetness. According to Stice “sugar activates our brain in a special way that is very reminiscent of drugs, like cocaine”. When sugar is consumed, dopamine is being released just as it would in response to drugs or alcohol. Dopamine is the chemical that controls the brain’s pleasure center and generates an euphoric effect when released. However, people who consume sugary foods or drinks on a daily basis are building up a tolerance similar to drug users so the more they eat the less they feel the reward resulting in over consumption. “If you overeat these on a regular basis it causes changes in the brain that basically blunt your reward region response to the sugar, so then you eat more and more to achieve the same satisfaction you felt originally” says Stice.
Sugar in your diet
Most likely toxic sugar is a bigger part of your diet than you realize, in spite of the fact that it has no nutritional value. No only that, but actually over consumption of refined sugar draws nutrients, especially minerals, out of the body opening the gates for a whole lot of other health problems down the road. By “sugar,” I mean not only the white granulated sugar used for coffee and baking — known as sucrose — but also other common sugar substitutes such as fructose and high fructose corn syrup, which according to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology and Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health at the University of California, San Francisco has already become “the most demonized additive known to man”. Adolescents today consume about 72.8 g/day of fructose when on a standard diet while a natural diet of fruits and vegetables would generate only 12 g/day of fructose. The average person eats about 150 grams of added sugar a day which is approximately 300 percent more than the amount that creates biochemical havoc in the body. As a standard recommendation the TOTAL sugar/fructose consumption (from all sources, including fruits) should be below 25 grams per day and if you are at risk for any of the sugar related diseases it would be wise to limit your consumption to 15 grams or less (click here for charts with fructose quantities of some of the most common fruits, veggies, nuts, etc.). Research is consistently showing that sugar is a toxin especially when consumed in high amounts and it’s fueling an increase in the most leading killers including heart disease, hypertension, obesity, type II diabetes and cancer.
Sugar and heart disease
Heart disease, you might wonder? Yes! Excess high fructose corn syrup consumption was linked to high risk factors for heart disease and stroke by increasing the bad LDL cholesterol and tripling the risk of low levels of good HDL cholesterol. A five-year study done by Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis is backing the findings of Dr. Robert Lustig, how has been a pioneer in raising awareness on the side effects of sugar when consumed on a daily basis. The human subjects that took part of Stanhope’s study developed increased blood levels of bad LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease in only 2 weeks after being put on a diet high in high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar loves cancer and cancer loves sugar!
One in two women and one in three men will develop cancer. When it comes to children, cancer is the number one killer by far. Lewis Cantley is a Harvard professor and the head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center and his research shows that when sugar is consumed, there is a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel certain types of cancers. Cantley says that “nearly a third of some common cancers including breast and colon cancers, have something called insulin receptors on their surface. Insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose. Every cell in our body needs glucose to survive but the trouble is that these cancer cells also use it to grow. So if you happen to have the tumor that has insulin receptors on it then it will get stimulated to take up the glucose that is in the bloodstream, so rather than go into fat or muscle, the glucose goes into the tumor. And the tumor uses it to grow.” His research clearly shows that once sugar is completely eliminated from the diets cancerous tumors stop growing.
When reading ingredient lists, sugar and sugar substitutes are hidden in all the processed foods you can imagine and not only the most obvious foods like syrups, juices, sodas, sports drinks and desserts but in yogurts, sauces, breads, peanut butters, chips, pizzas, burgers, dressings, dips, pretty much in everything that comes packaged. There is huge literature that it’s now coming of age saying that the earlier you expose children to sugars, the more they crave it later and the more sugar a pregnant woman consumes, the more it crosses the placenta causing developmental programming even before the child is born and adding to the epidemic.
Toxic Sugar Has Many Disguises
You must read labels carefully to know how much added sugar you are getting. Sometimes, sugar is listed as apparently more “healthy” ingredients, such as honey, rice syrup, or even “organic dehydrated cane juice”. In the end, all these are sugars.
On occasions, fruit juice concentrates will be used, but usually the juices chosen are among the least nutritious of the juices (white grape, apple, and pear juices) and by the time they are “concentrated” very little remains but the sugar.
The words “syrup”, “sweetener”, and anything ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be “sugar”. Possible code words for “sugar” may appear on ingredient labels as follows:
- Agave Nectar – comes from the sap of several different succulents and it is about 25% sweeter than sugar due to its composition: 90% fructose/10% sucrose
- Barley Malt Syrup – made from soaked and sprouted barley which is dried and cooked down to a syrup. It has a high percentage of maltose, which gives it a low glycemic index score
- Brown Rice Syrup – low-glycemic syrup that’s about half as sweet as table sugar
- Brown Sugar – it is made from white sugar (sucrose) with some of the molasses added back in
- Corn Syrup – highly processed and it’s made from corn starch. Corn syrup is used in foods to soften texture, add volume and prevent crystallization of sugar
- Dextrin – emulsifier used in processed foods that prevents sugar from crystallizing, encapsulates flavor oils and as thickening agent in candies and powdered mixes
- Dextrose – it is a source of sweetness in fruits and honey and when added to foods as a sweetener contributes to tooth decay
- Evaporated Cane Juice (is not liquid, but crystal form) – is sugar that does not go through the final stages of purification and whitening by chemicals.
- Fructose – simple sugar found in honey and in fruit that is much sweeter than table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets
- Fruit Juice Concentrate – natural fruit sugar (fructose) extracted from puréed fruit, such as applesauce and fruit juices
- Glucose – simple sugar also known as grape sugar or corn sugar that is mainly found in grapes and honey
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup (aka HFCS) – highly processed corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose producing a sweeter compound that contains higher levels of fructose. This syrupy liquid is cheaper than sugar and when used in large amounts it promotes tooth decay, as well as increase triglyceride (fat) levels in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease
- Honey – sticky, yellowish-brown sugary natural syrup made by bees using nectar collected from flowers. Honey contains fructose, glucose, water, oil, trace minerals and special enzymes produced by bees
- Invert sugar – sucrose-based syrup that has been treated with the enzyme invertase and/or an acid, giving it a more rounded sweetness and preventing crystallization
- Lactose – natural sugar that is found predominantly in milk and is formed from galactose and glucose
- Maltodextrin – additive in processed foods that improves texture and it’s made from starch
- Malt Syrup – sweetener produced from sprouted barley
- Maltose – sugar used in brewing beer
- Maple Syrup – largely unrefined sweetener that is extracted by boiling the sap of the sugar maple tree
- Molasses – dark, rich, slightly sweet byproduct of the beating the sugarcane, grapes or sugar beets into sugar
- Raw sugar – raw sugars are unrefined brown sugars that are made by crystallizing evaporated cane juice, which is boiled down to a crystalline solid, then purifying the product slightly
- Rice Syrup – made from soaked and sprouted rice, which is dried and cooked down to a thick syrup that contains a high level of maltose
- Sorghum or Sorghum Syrup – has a high sugar content and it requires intensive processing for extraction
- Sugar (aka Sucrose or Saccharose) – simple crystalline carbohydrate that comes in many different forms. Common table sugar is extracted from cane or beets
- Syrup (aka Sugar Syrup or Bar Syrup) – thick, sticky liquid that can be made from fruit or other plant juices boiled with sugar, or with a sugar base, water and flavorings. It is used in sweet bar drinks instead of granulated sugar which does not dissolve well in cold liquids
- Treacle – light syrup which is produced when the sugar cane juice is first boiled
- Turbinado Sugar – specialty brown sugar cane extract that is precursor to the white sugar in the extraction process
Dr. Lustig’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” went viral since it was posted on YouTube in July 2009 and has received more than 2.9 million views so far.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on “60 Minutes” on the new mounting evidence showing that sugar over consumption can create havoc with your health and worsen conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer.
What to do?
Can we do something about it? How about the FDA and USDA? Aren’t they supposed to regulate our food and the ingredients put in food? Well, since the FDA considers sugar as “natural” then it’s assumed that it must be safe to be consumed in any quantity. As a matter of fact, the end ingredient be it sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, etc. it doesn’t come from nature anymore, but from a lab after being heavily processed. If you think about it, tobacco is “natural” too, as it’s made from a plant that grows in nature, same goes for cocaine and alcohol. Are they safe to consumed by anyone on a daily basis without any consequences? Not really.
In the end, it is up to you! Are you going take a stand and reclaim your health? Are you going to make educated choices and model good eating habits for your children? Or you’ll continue to be oblivious to warnings and brainwashed in the name of convenience? Are you gonna sit around nonchalantly and accept the fact that for the first time in human history our generation will out live the generation of our children? Are you ready to take responsibility for procrastinating and indulging when the future hits with the pain that is to come when your loved ones will be diagnosed with these diseases?