As Catherine Shanahan Wrote In Deep Nutrition

“We are a nation of sugar addicts, surrounded by fellow sugar addicts raising sugar-addicted kids, with constant access to cheap and powerfully addicting sugar.” For most it’s the first thing they ingest in the morning and likely in the last thing we have at night. Even elite athletes are consuming sugar carried by plastic receptacles filled with colorful, drinkable versions as we come to know as Gatorade. Must know sugar is bad for us, this is not considered new information. Why then don’t we just stop eating sugar? This seems easy and uncomplicated in theory –  just stop eating sugar – but in reality, it is anything but.

Why Is It so Difficult to Cut Out or at Least Cut-Down Sugar Consumption?

Sugar is very addicting, even more so than other addictive compounds such as cocaine. There is one key advantage sugar has over other addictive compounds. It tastes better than most drugs. A 2007 study done on rats found that between cocaine and sugar, sugar was more addicting.1 Sugars hold on us could be more dangerous than any illegal substance since its effects are subtle and more pervasive. Let’s say a child was given a dose of heroin, the chemical would trigger an eruption of neural activity in the pleasure centers of the brain.  Sugar found in candy, juice, pureed mango, or even infant formula. Though to a lesser extent, will result in the very same kind of responses to our pleasure centers via “the release of endogenous (our own bodies production) opiates triggered by the sweet taste.” So, although sugar doesn’t contain opiates like heroin, it makes our bodies produce their own endogenous opiates. This effect is strong enough for solutions of sugar to work as a pain reliever.

Sucrose Analgesia

In this common practice, nurses give a sip of sugar water to infants to calm them during shots and other painful procedures newborns routinely undergo. In 2002, a group of neonatal nurses at several hospitals throughout Montreal, Canada. Started to wonder if there might be a downside to this common practice. Especially, worrying about the effect on a baby’s developing brain. The nurses got permission to give half the babies in their study sugar water, while the other half got plain water. They found that the infants who got the sugar water in their first seven days of life suffered neurological effects. Eleven weeks later, these effects were still measurable when the study ended.2 This study essentially indicates that little nips of sugar can impair a baby’s cognitive development.

How Can Sugar Exhibit such Powerful Effects?

Sugar induces endogenous opiate release. The authors of this study postulate that repeated artificially induced stimulation of opiates interfere with normal development of alertness and arousal systems. The how behind why this directly affects cognitive ability has yet to be answered.

Another question, Why Do We Tend to Consume Higher and Higher Amounts of Sugar as Time Goes On?

The answer is simple, sugar is dulling our senses. In Iraq, sweetened tea is very popular and accounts for the majority of sugar consumption in all age groups. In a study conducted in Iraq, researchers offered people four cups of tea with an increasing concentration of sugar. Sugar is scarce in the rural areas and almost no one, only 30%, wanted the sweetest tea. 100% of those who lived in the city for ten or more years, where sugar is anything but scarce, preferred the sweetest tea offered. Also, the longer someone had lived in the city the more sugar they wanted in their tea. Researchers then did another test to determine at what levels their taste buds could detect the presence sugar. They found that the more sugar people consumed, the less they could taste it. Sugar had not figuratively, but literally dulled their senses.

Manufacturers Like to Play Hide and Seek with Sugar

When people decide they are going to cut down on their sugar intake they often know to avoid High fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, and turbinado sugar. What they don’t realize is the more people get wise about sugar, the more manufacturers find ways to sneak it into their products. These manufacturers are playing a game of hide and seek between us and sugar. You cut out Oreos but there’s sugar in your salad dressing. Maybe you pass on birthday cake at the office, but there’s sugar in your store-bought sushi. You decided to give up soda, that’s awesome but your “100% orange juice” is loaded with corn syrup. (Many FDA officials suspect that many fruit juices claiming to be 100% natural are in fact sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup4) If you look at a can of Pediasure, often recommended over milk by pediatricians. The first ingredient is water can you guess what the second ingredient is? Yes, it’s sugar and it accounts for 108 grams per liter which is insane! Especially, when you consider that whole milk only has 8 grams of sugar per liter.

Sugar’s, Many Pseudonyms

Here are many, but not all, of the names, manufacturers use to rename sugar: Evaporated cane juice, Corn syrup, Corn sweeteners, High-fructose corn syrup, Crystalline fructose, Fructose, Sucrose, Malt, Malt syrup, Barley malt syrup, Barley malt extract, Maltose, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Maple syrup, Brown rice syrup, Beet juice, Muscovato, Succanat, Turbinado sugar, and Invert sugar. All of these are molecules that get converted to glucose or glycerine when you eat them.  Raisin Bran Crunch is a great example of hiding sugar by calling it something else. The ingredients include: whole wheat, sugar, raisins (mostly sugar), wheat bran, high-fructose corn syrup (sugar), whole oats, glycerin, brown sugar (obviously sugar), corn syrup (more sugar), salt, barley, malt syrup (still more sugar), partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil (not sugar but worse), modified corn starch, cinnamon, honey (rich in sugar), nonfat dry milk, natural and artificial (possibly more sugar), polyglycerol esters on mono- and diglycerides, niacinamide, zinc oxide, reduced iron, malt sugar (yep sugar), and a few artificial vitamins.  Now you tell me how healthy does Raisin Bran Crunch and some of these other so called “healthy” foods sound to you?

  1. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000698
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12205254
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9003235
  4. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/27319/1/34020038.pdf

Fact of the Week

The High Fructose corn syrup industry really took off in 1978, before this fruit and grain products were the primary source of fructose in our diets. In our modern times’ fruit and grain, consumption is down, while our total fructose consumption has only increased from 8 to 9 percent of our total caloric intake, a measly 1 percent.12

Therefore, fructose should not, logically, be blamed for today’s obesity epidemic. But I’d like to ask. Could a major cause behind this epidemic be more due to the fact that total caloric intake has increased by 18%, and total carbohydrate intake has increased a whopping 41% since 1978? I recommend anyone trying to lose weight, keep their total net daily carbohydrate intake under 100 grams per day.13

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511004327
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2525476/