Addicted to White Powder


In our pursuit for wellness and performance there is one thing that continues to enslave us: sugar.

Sugar is often seen as nothing more than empty calories, but researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are suggesting sugar should be regulated just like a drug. “It can be as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol. It is unnecessary, easy to abuse, and even deadly and disabling.”

Research presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology shows how rats respond to sugar binges just like they would respond to morphine, cocaine, or nicotine.

Research with lab rats shows that intermittent access to sugar can lead to changes in the brain and behavior similar to those caused by drugs of abuse. Hungry rats were fed sugar water and researchers discovered that the rats’ brains released neurotransmitters called dopamines thought to be involved in addiction. Further tests elicited withdrawal symptoms in the same rats. Interesting research.

A lot of what we eat is a part of our culture and upbringing, food availability, where we live, and cost. Many people are unaware that sugar is present in foods they’d never imagine. Proponents of a sugar ban suggest that making sugar more expensive and harder to get will result in people choosing to eat less of it. Would this really be a bad thing?

The prescription for eating for wellness is “Eat lean meats, veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and NO SUGAR.” Researchers primary focus is on “added sugar” which they define as “any sweetener containing the molecule fructose that is added to food during processing.” In this country, the average American consumes 222 calories worth of sugar from sugar cane, and 165 calories of sugar from high fructose corn syrup, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So why is sugar so bad for us? Our bodies rapid absorption of sugar causes a massive release of insulin. Insulin causes fat metabolism to cease and fat storage to begin. Insulin increases cholesterol synthesis in the liver and raises cholesterol levels, particularly bad cholesterol. Insulin increases inflammation. The constant presence of insulin in our blood leads to insulin insensitivity and this leads to high blood levels of sugar and a state of diabetes, vascular, kidney disease, heart diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

A study by the United Nations Food and Drug Organization says that in 2007, Americans consumed more than 600 calories’ worth of added sugar each day. And the damage it does goes far beyond just added calories. Consider the rise of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all potentially related to our obsession with this sweet white powder.

When it comes to our love for everything sweet, Americans are like mice in a maze—we find it hard to escape. Be strong in mind and body and don’t give in to the other white powder. Control your sugar intake and there’s no doubt you’ll improve your health.