Sugar: An Alluring & Dangerous Addiction

Some say that it is harder to kick sugar than cocaine. It’s legal, widely available and socially acceptable to add sugar to foods, use it commercially, and reward ourselves with a sweet treat in the afternoon.

Sugar Addiction. There is ever increasing research that tells us sugar may be as addictive as street drugs and have a similar effect on the brain. When we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released.

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is released when we experience pleasure such as eating a brownie. Repeating the behavior, eating more brownies, leads to more pleasure. With each successive brownie, the brain adjusts by releasing less dopamine. So, we repeat the behavior by eating more brownies morning, noon and night to get more dopamine and feel more pleasure. Doing more of something to release more neurochemicals and derive more pleasure is called substance abuse.

Sugar, along with social contact, love and hard drugs, also trigger opiate receptors in the brain. When activated, the receptors help us control pain, activate the brain’s reward center and encourage us to act compulsively such as when we eat brownies all day long. Research at Connecticut College showed that when rats ate Oreo cookies, their brains’ pressure center ignited more than when they were exposed to cocaine. I wonder if the rats ate the filling first!

Sugar and the Fat Switch. When we ingest sugars or carbohydrates, our bodies’ fat switch turns on and tells our bodies to store fat. The increase in sugars from excessive consumption turn our bodies into fat conservation mode. When we turn the fat switch on, our bodies move excess macronutrients-carbohydrates, fats and proteins-that our bodies cannot use for fuel into our fat cells.  When this happens, we use some of the sugar we just ate for fuel and store the rest. We can turn the fat switch turned off by avoiding all processed and natural sugars and severely restricting carbohydrates. In other words, we can turn off our fat switch by eating a Keto Diet.

56 Names for Sugar. Why are there at least 56 names for sugar? Read the labels. If you spot any of these names on the product ingredient list or question an ingredient, evaluate the product macros and determine if you REALLY want to eat it. The downside to eating foods that list sugar in the ingredient list is that they  keep you burning sugar instead of body fat.

With 56 names for sugar, it may be hard to spot it on an ingredient list. We love the product names such as “Whole Earth Sweetener Company” and “Stevia in the Raw.” It makes us think that our food is is coming right from Mother Nature.  So, look closely at the image of some top sugar replacers. Dextrose is the first ingredient. Seeing that especially on the Stevia packets broke my heart. While it slows down our shopping, reading labels is one way to know what we are eating.  

What do we need sugar for? Our brain needs sugar, but we do not need to eat it to have it available for our brain to use. Our bodies cannot make proteins or fats, so we need to eat these. But, our bodies can make their own glucose from other molecules. This means sugar, i.e., carbohydrates, are not essential  for our health. Surprising, our bodies need only 1 teaspoon of glucose or 4 grams or 16 calories of the sweet stuff circulating at any given moment.

Kick Sugar. If you’d would like to give up sugar but are not sure how, try backing into a sugar-free lifestyle by letting go of sugary foods one category at a time. Generally, it takes about 3 days to let go of a food group. You might start with soda and then in 3 days move to chips and so on. If there is a particular category you feel will be hard to let go of, like chocolate, save it for last.  

In closing, consider the wisdom of David Crosby from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as you start your move away from sugar: “Food is simple…You eat, you burn. What you don’t burn, you wear.” Thank you Croz for again teaching your children well.

Kindest Regards,


PS. If you would like help moving from the standard American diet to a Ketogenic Lifestyle, please contact me.

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