“Sugar gave rise to the slave trade; now sugar has enslaved us.” … Jeff O’Connell
It is no secret that there is an epidemic of opioid addiction in our country today. That is sad. There is a lot of attention being brought to this issue by the media and policy makers. That is the right thing to do. As bad as the opioid epidemic is, it is not the most dangerous addiction that afflicts our society today. Not even close. The most dangerous addiction wreaking havoc to the health and waistlines of millions of Americans today is SUGAR!
Sugar activates the same reward centers in the brain as drugs do. Sugar provokes the same cravings and withdrawal symptoms as do drugs. Studies have shown that sugar triggers the pleasure centers in laboratory rats more than cocaine. Yes, more than cocaine. When rats have the choice between sugar and cocaine, they choose sugar. In today’s world of highly processed foods, sugar is everywhere. It is in the obvious sodas and juices we feed our kids. It is in pastries and desserts that will blushingly indulge in. But it is also deceptively hidden in a lot of foods even the so called “diet foods.”
Sugar is a drug of addiction. Yet nobody is saying or doing anything about it. Not parents, not educators, not policy maker; no one. The food industry has hijacked our taste buds and our health with highly addictive sugar and highly processed foods. This has been good for their bottom lines but catastrophic for our health.
The current epidemic of obesity and associated chronic diseases are directly due to the high sugar content of our foods. Here are some not so sweet facts:
· The average American consumes about 3Ibs (~240 teaspoons) of sugar a week or about 3,550Ibs in a lifetime
· The American Heart Association recommends no more than the equivalent of 9.5 teaspoons of sugar a day.
· The average American adult consumes about 22 teaspoons a day
· The average American child consumes 32 teaspoons a day
· Added sugar alone accounts for about 500 extra calories a day. The caloric equivalent of 10 strips of bacon
This is a serious problem. Too much sugar is linked to a long list of metabolic problems and even cancer. Sugar is a major cause of obesity and related diseases. This is because, when you eat sugar, your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps drive the sugar from the blood stream into the cells where it is burnt for fuel and energy. Insulin also leads to fat storage. High intake of sugar leads to sustained high level of insulin. This leads to a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes chronic inflammation. We now know that chronic inflammation is at the heart of most of the chronic diseases such as:
· Heart disease and heart attacks
· Poor circulation
· Premature aging
· Chronic fatigue
· Poor sex drive
The list goes on. The impact that sugar is having on our society is devastating. Sugar has led to a lot of unnecessary illness, needless suffering, lost productivity and even premature aging and death.
The other day I had the privilege of meeting a most fascinating woman by the name of Ruth Colvin. Ruth is an international icon and full of energy. She started Literacy Volunteers of America in 1962 right here in Syracuse. This organization has programs in all 50 states and in 34 developing countries. In 2006, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W Bush. She is an inductee of National Women Hall of Fame. She has written 15 books and is working on number 16. She still works, exercises every day, plays golf three times a week and goes to the gym three times a week. Ruth is 100 years old. She has the physical ability and vitality that would be the envy of many half her age.
A quality of life like this at 100 is available to most of us. But only if you get off the sugar drug. You simply cannot expect to live a healthy and vibrant life while consuming the amount of sugar the average American consumes today. You must wean yourself off refined sugar. Once your taste buds recover, you will be able to appreciate the natural flavors in foods, fruits and spices. Just like any drug of addiction, going cold turkey may lead to feeling jittery and irritable or withdrawal symptoms.
Sugar does not fill you, but it can kill you. Act today to get off sugar. Your life depends on it.
Low sugar breakfast idea:
· Plant based protein shake
· Half of a small avocado
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” — Ayurvedic proverb.
Ife Ojugbeli, MD, M.B.A, Dipl. ABOM.