When I say the word sugar, what comes to mind? For most of us, it’s fond memories of amazing ice cream we’ve enjoyed or that unforgettable cake from our last birthday. Sugar—I’m not afraid to say—is something that almost everyone enjoys. It is a commonly known and accepted fact is that sugar is not healthy—it is something to be enjoyed in moderation, and can lead to serious health problems . However, America is facing an obesity epidemic right now that can largely blame sugar as the cause.
The average American consumes 126.4 grams of sugar a day, by far the largest amount in the entire world . The American Heart Association suggests 37.5 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. I want to look at the reasons this disparity exists. There are quite a few factors at play when it comes to this epidemic.
When someone consumes a good amount of sugar at once, the first thing that happens is they get a dump of dopamine to their neurotransmitters in their brain. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical, creating the “reward effect” that makes our brains think we’ve just encountered something special and spectacular. Think about when you indulge in that piece of cake—what’s the best part? The first bite, of course! You are chemically getting a pleasure feeling that, unfortunately, does not last very long. Illicit drugs have the same effect on the brain. And once you consistently eat sugar and feel all of those good feelings on a regular basis, your brain will adjust and release less dopamine with each bite, meaning you will need to consume more sugar than previous times to reach the same pleasure effect. So it’s not that crazy to compare to sugar to drugs you can get hooked on, no?
Of course, the consequences of consuming a lot of sugar take much longer to come to fruition than the consequences of opiates—but even so, there are a lot of similar patterns going on. I challenge anyone reading this to try to stop having sugar for at least 3 days. See how it goes. I have tried it before, and my body literally was aching for some kind of sugar to enter it. My brain wanted that dopamine hit so badly, it seemed impossible to resist.
It doesn’t help that sugar seems so sneak its way into a lot of food these days. In the 1990s, the low-fat diet craze began. The credo was simple: fat is bad, so if you don’t eat foods with lots of fat, you will be healthy! Further studies have now proven a distinguishable difference between good and bad fat, but back then, we did not know better . The result was giant companies coming out with low-fat alternatives for their popular products. How did these companies compensate for the loss of taste? By adding sugar into their low-fat products. Presto—they tasted pretty good!
In 2019, the majority of our country still seems to be worried about fat content on whatever they are eating. Next time you go grocery shopping, read every food label on the items you’re planning to purchase. The results will shock you when you discover how many health-branded foods actually contain large amounts of sugar. Some sneaky products include:
- Low fat yogurt
- Condiments (especially BBQ sauce and Ketchup)
- Fruit Juices
- Protein Bars
- Bottled Smoothies
- Breakfast cereals (even apart from the obviously sugar-loaded ones)
It really isn’t people’s fault that they consume a lot of sugar. So what’s the solution? My advice is to begin reducing your intake; a rule of thumb I follow is to stay on the outside sections of a grocery store. Think of a grocery store as a big rectangle: pretty much anything natural and low sugar is going to be on the outside, close to the lines of that rectangle. Again, reduction is key, as eliminating sugar entirely is futile.
Obviously we know that lots of sugar is detrimental to your health, but what exactly can happen if you consume too much sugar for years at a time? Well, your risk of heart disease goes way up; obviously diabetes becomes a very possible reality; there is guaranteed weight gain; and sugar can play a major part in depression . If you were to write down the pros and cons of eating sugar, the truth would become incredibly clear. Sugar is a killer.
There are so many benefits to lowering your sugar intake that I could write a whole book about it myself. For me, I have majorly reduced my sugar consumption the past two months using a sugar detox plan, and have seen incredible results in a short amount of time . I’ve lost 18 lbs; my energy is through the roof; I sleep a ton better; my mood is much less a roller-coaster. If you have any concerns about your relationship with sugar, I highly recommend doing your own research—your future self will certainly thank you for it.
**Please note that this article is written by a person in recovery who has vast knowledge and experience but is not a licensed professional. For professional advice and help please contact MindPath’s Addiction Recovery Center or see a licensed addiction therapist near you.**
Daniel Wittler is a writer in recovery from New Jersey who writes for sites like Stodzy Internet Marketing along with many other sites. Daniel believes absolutely anyone can get sober provided they are ready to take action.