The Trouble With Sugar

A SWEET ADDICTION

One of the biggest issues with nutrition involves the addition of sugar into almost every food.  It’s concerning because many foods have added sugar that we wouldn’t expect, like bread, dill pickles, regular potato chips, canned vegetables, tortillas, tomato sauce, ketchup, and many more.  There is no reason for us to put sugar in these things other than to increase sales. The unfortunate side effect is people get addicted to the added sugar, which causes weight gain.

To further understand why sugar is such an issue, we need to understand how our body processes it.  Sugar is metabolized in our body as both as both a carbohydrate and a fat. This means that sugar ultimately gets processed and split into fructose and glucose.  The glucose starts out as a carbohydrate and what is not used immediately, gets stored as fat. Fructose, however, is metabolized in the liver and is automatically stored as fat.  This means sugar is mainly stored as fat. In moderation, sugar can be consumed without issue.

However, sugar is exceedingly addictive.  In fact, research has shown that when sugar is consumed, it stimulates the same part of the brain that is stimulated by drugs (e.g. cocaine).  Every time we eat sugar we trigger a release of dopamine (a feel-good molecule) which can be quite addicting. While the brain craves sugar to get the release of dopamine, the body will naturally down-regulate this process (meaning it takes more and more to get the same feel good sensation).  We will crave more sugar and eat more to get less and less sensation over time. With this being a continuous cycle, we will increase excess body fat and decrease the insulin response.

Illustration provided by

Dr. Weston Holzinger DC, MS

Attempting to stop the consummation of sugar is also a major problem, as the body will go through withdrawals, as with any substance the body is addicted to.  Withdrawal symptoms can range from migraines, diarrhea, fatigue, irritability, and many others. It is advised for anyone who wants to stop sugar to slowly reduce the amount consumed until it is eliminated, however, be prepared to deal with withdrawal symptoms either way.  

The best way to avoid excess amounts of sugar is to be conscious about what you eat.  A simple rule to help keep you on track is to eat plenty of raw, organic vegetables and meat.  Fruit is also acceptable if eaten in moderation. When consuming store-bought food, make sure to read the label.  Labels will allow you to see the extra sugar (and other additives) that have been added the food. Following these steps can significantly reduce the amount of sugar you are consuming daily and keep you from being another negative statistic.


Christopher Scrivner