The most used addictive substance in the world is one that most people don’t even pay attention to.
It isn’t opiates, speed, crack cocaine or even alcohol. In fact, this addiction is bigger than all of these combined.
On top of everything else, this substance is responsible for more deaths than any other. It also creates a massive drain on healthcare resources worldwide.
Here’s one more hint – it’s cheap, available practically everywhere and you have almost certainly used it this year.
Have you guessed yet?
If you said, “refined sugar,” go to the head of the class.
Most people think sugar and foods made with it are treats. They reward themselves after a long, stressful day by having some chocolate or a few cookies. And since sweet foods trigger the release of the anti-depressant brain chemical, serotonin, and pain-relieving endorphins they provide some temporary relief from stress. Sugar is the classic ‘comfort food.’
As a result, most people think, “What’s the harm? How could a little sugar be a problem? Didn’t our moms give us sugar as a treat growing up? How could that be bad?”
It’s an understandable, if erroneous thought.
If you still think sugar is a harmless treat, consider reviewing some of the 35 articles on the Balance Point Blog site that prove otherwise. You can find them here.
Today, however, I want to talk about the addictive nature of sugar.
Dr. Charles Gant, M.D., Ph.D. compares the addictive effects of sugar on the brain to heroin and cocaine. Those effects include increased levels of dopamine, endorphins (endogenous morphine), and serotonin.
As further proof of its addictive properties, when drugs that block the effects of opiates in the body are given to people, they eat less sugar. At the same time, they show the classic signs of opiate withdrawal.
In an article published in “The Addiction Letter” in 1992, researchers found that excess sugar intake caused addiction. The title of the article was, “Sugar, White Flour Withdrawal Produces Chemical Response.”
That means refined sugar can be correctly placed in the same category as other white, refined, addictive substances. Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine are in this same category.
What about the claims of health care costs and death due to sugar?
Depending on who’s numbers you believe, modern per capita consumption of sugar is between 100 and 160 pounds per year. That’s one third to one half pound of sugar every day! If you consider that health conscious people eat far less than that, imagine how much everyone else is eating to make up the difference.
Since refined sugar consumption has a direct link to diabetes, heart disease, dental problems, psychiatric disorders and cancer, you can see the true medical costs of sugar use.
And since diabetes, heart disease and cancer are the major causes of death in the modern world, you can see how deadly sugar is.
The very best way to overcome sugar addiction is to provide your body with the nutrients it really needs to survive and thrive. If you focus on eating whole, fresh natural foods, you’ll go a long way in the right direction.
Another key is to dial in the right ratio of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) that your body needs. This is different for each person. I use Metabolic TypingÃ‚Â® for this with my patients. This helps them zero in on exactly what foods and ratios work best for them.
Second best is paying close attention to your macronutrient ratios and experimenting until you’ll come close to what’s ideal for you.
Evidence That Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake Causes Endogenous Opioid Dependence. Obes Res. Jun 2002 ;10(6):478-488. Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Society, Toronto, June 17, 2001
Sugar, White Flour Withdrawal Produces Chemical Response. The Addiction Letter. Jul 1992:04:00 Colantuoni, C., et al.