Public Health Enemy #1 – Sugar

cookies and milk


We all know eating sugar is not very good for our health. However, many people don’t realize sugar addiction is a reality in a big way.

There’s a reason people light up when considering what tasty dessert they’re going to order. And why their faces transform into an oh-so-satisfied expression as they hit the cookie dough core in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

  • Like other addictive substances, consuming sugar causes the brain to release a surge of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with feelings of euphoria.
  • According to a Princeton University study, dopamine is released into  the brain’s nucleus accumbens in rats who drank a sugar solution. This chemical will trigger addiction. Professor Hobel went on to discover as little as one soft drink results in sugar-bingeing. Even more disturbing is the fact it increases the likelihood of abusing  drugs and alcohol.

In short, Americans love sugar because it provides a certain kind of euphoria. It makes us happy, even if just for a moment and even if we’re not consciously aware of it.

  • Just like any other addictive substance, a person with a high sugar intake will build up a tolerance, meaning they need to keep upping their intake to feel normal.

According to the results of one government study, sugar intake can lead to behavioral changes similar to substance abuse. The study’s conclusion went on to say….”evidence in rats, intermittent access to sugar and food is, in fact, capable of producing a dependency.”

Consider the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that adults on the standard 2,000 calories diet should only take in about 25 grams of sugar per day. A single can of soda contains anywhere from 39 – 45 grams.

“I don’t drink sodas,” is likely the first thought many healthy-minded people might have. That’s good, but even a single, solitary cup of Dannon low-fat vanilla yogurt has a whopping 34 grams of it.

  • “Americans consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than three times the recommended amount.
  • This adds up to around 60 pounds of added sugar annually,” reports the American Heart Association.
  • 74 percent of packaged foods contain hidden sugars, according to Sugar Science, an initiative at the University of California, San Francisco.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can take a minimum of 10 days, to detox off sugar. Think about that word detox. It means removing  toxins from the body. Also, another term for being drunk on alcohol is intoxicated.

Through no fault of their own, millions of people have developed a physical dependency on sugar that’s nearly identical to a classic case of drug addiction. Here is a list of the criteria for substance dependency;

  • regular use
  • bingeing
  • tolerance
  • cravings
  • withdrawal

In a Princeton study, animals met all of these criteria when given doses of a sugar solution equivalent to one soft drink. Professor  Bart Hoebel said “we have the first set of comprehensive studies showing the strong suggestion of sugar addiction in rats and a mechanism that might underlie it.” Hoeber went on to say “we have been able to demonstrate these behaviors (addiction) in sugar-bingeing rats in a number of ways.”


  1. Do you regularly crave something sweet to eat?
  2. Does going without sugary foods cause obsessing them?
  3. Have you ever built up a tolerance, needing more of the sugary food(s) in order to enjoy them?
  4. 4Does stopping eating sugar for any extended period of time ever result in physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms?
  5. Have you binged on sugar, eating far more of some sweet food than you intended?
  6. Can you have just 1 cookie, 1 piece of candy (or chocolate) or 1 scoop of ice cream without wanting to eat more?
  7. Do you sometimes use something sweet to reward or soothe yourself?
  8. After consuming sugar, do you sometimes feel guilty?
  9. Even though you know the consequences, do you go ahead and eat sugar anyway?
  10. Though you’re not hungry, do you eat sugar anyway?
  11. Have you ever hidden sugar foods from others?
  12. Do you go out of your way to get a sugar food?

Results: If you answered “yes” to 5 or more of the above questions odds are you might be a sugar addict.

Is it possible addictive behavior in adults begins childhood sugar consumption? According to Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, author of Little Sugar Addicts, the primary cause of a child’s behavior problems is sugar.

This article went on to declare outright “consuming sweets may become a child’s main way to comfort him or herself and down the road this becomes problematic for the child’s overall wellbeing, physical health, and self-esteem.”

It can be difficult to know what kinds of foods contain sugar because, well, it’s in many products that people might consider unsweetened or even healthy. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

Processed food is saturated with sugar. It’s in;

  • lunch meat
  • bread
  • soups
  • salad dressing
  • pretzels
  • tomato-based sauces

Sugar is disguised by dozens of different names most of us don’t even recognize, like;

  • barley malt
  • agave
  • treacle
  • sucrose
  • dextrose
  • high-fructose corn syrup

So, on top of normal consumption, many people add a morning donut or a late afternoon caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks, a soda or sports drink because without it, a person can start feeling sluggish and moody.

Starbucks fancy drinks are loaded with it too. According to CBS News;

  • White chocolate mocha & whipped cream, venti – 73.8 grams (18 teaspoons)
  • Chai tea latte, venti – 53 grams (13 teaspoons)
  • Caramel macchiato, venti – 42.1 grams (11 teaspoons)

If we take a closer look at our motivation, it may be we’re getting a sugar-fix to avoid a mental and physical “crash” because the body has become physically dependent. In fact, sugar withdrawal comes with some very real symptoms that can include:

  • Cravings for not just something sweet, but often salty, carbohydrate laden junk foods
  • Fatigue or sluggishness
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings and even depression or anxiety

A lot of people scoff at the idea of a sugar addiction because there are no stories about destitute sugar addicts who once had a great life and then lost it all as a result of their addiction.

Obviously, it’s not that simple because the health-related consequences of too much sugar are, in fact, potentially deadly.

One of the key struggles for those in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is battling withdrawal symptoms while the body and brain chemistry returns to normal. It’s after this detox process, which can obviously vary in intensity based on each individual, that people in recovery can begin examining their behavior, feelings and the underlying motivation of their choices.

  • Overcoming an addiction to sugar can be similar. It’s important to be patient with yourself and have a plan for cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Relapse will be a common struggle, but this does not mean failure.
  • Making an overall healthier choice, like developing and sticking to a regular exercise regimen will actually improve recovery from a sugar addiction. A diet rich in lean proteins, fish, vegetables and fruits is also key to balancing dopamine levels and getting proper nutrition.

It may take a little time to kick a sugar habit, but many people find that they’re overall mood and mental wellbeing, along with their energy levels, greatly improve.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 90 – 95 percent of the 34 million Americans with diabetes have type 2, a chronic illness related to obesity. Sugar is also linked to heart disease.

  • Combined, diabetes and heart disease kill well over 1 million people every single year.

Additionally, cases of sugar-related liver disease are growing and physicians are concerned. Much like with alcohol, the liver can only process so much sugar, especially fructose.

“The fastest rising cause of liver transplantation in Americans is “Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” Dr. Laura Schmidt, a professor at UCSF School of Medicine said in an interview for Sugar Science.

  • There is also evidence that some companies are shading the truth about sugar-related health issues.

A report in the journal Annals of Medicine, which reviewed studies looking at the link between sugary drinks and diabetes and obesity, found 26 studies funded by the beverage industry that found no connection between sugary drinks and these diseases. Out of the 33 studies that did find a link, all were funded independently.

This government study (Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study) concluded there is a direct link between sugar and an elevated risk of cancer, especially in women.

Sugar is the number one enemy to health