How to Overcome the Sugar Blues and Why you Should

Studies show that too much sugar (natural sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) not only makes us fat, but is also affects our liver, disturbs our metabolism, impairs brain function, increases risk of diabetes and even causes premature aging.

How much sugar are YOU eating?

  • Did you know that Americans are consuming 22 teaspoons of sugar each day and most of that added sugar comes from soft drinks and candy, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup?

  • Did you know that sugar is highly addictive, and that it easily leads to weight gain and obesity?

  • Sugar is also linked to depressive states and it actually suppresses the immune system.

Sugar and hormones

Sugar is a leading cause of obesity due to its powerful effects on hormones and the brain. In a review paper published in 2008 in the Journal of Neuroscience & Bio-behavioral Reviews, researchers examined the evidence for the addictive potential of sugar.

Sugar causes opiate and dopamine activity in the reward centers of the brain, just like cocaine. Sugar addicts can develop strong cravings for sugar and individuals find it difficult to quit or reduce their consumption of sugar. As one comes off the sugar, the body can go into withdrawal and a person can experience headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and other detoxification effects.

Sugar makes you fat.

We once thought that fat made us fat, but actually it is sugar that makes you fat. After sugar spikes of blood sugar, the body quickly works to re-balance itself. Insulin is released, and the liver starts storing the excess sugar as fat, so that blood sugar and insulin rates can stabilize.

All this work from your body lowers your blood sugar, and as your blood sugar dips, you get ravenously hungry. So, you eat again, and get stuck in a vicious hunger cycle fueled by sugar cravings. These energy crashes cause massive inflammation, which disrupts the body’s ability to function optimally. This vicious cycle explains why so many people on low fat diets feel like they can't lose weight no matter what.

Insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off the body's ability to lose that fat. High insulin levels suppress two important hormones – glucagons, responsible for burning fat and also sugar and growth hormones needed for promoting muscle development.

When consumed in the massive quantities, fructose interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite and this results in overeating. Carbohydrates found in processed foods, such as white bread and rice, break down to glucose and affect your body in the same way as refined sugar does.

Sources of sugar

Sources of sugar commonly include cane sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup, and corn sugar, however, sugar is hidden in many of the foods we consume on a daily basis.

Other sources of sugar are malt syrup, corn syrup, high fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, galactose, honey, sorghum syrup, caramel and sucanat.

Sugar is present in candy, soda, cakes, cookies, brownies and junk food and is also present in sports drinks, sodas, juices and ready to eat cereal. Many crackers, yogurt, prepared foods, ketchup, and peanut butter, are loaded with sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

Some products are marketed as health foods, or at least as “healthy sweeteners”, such as agave, maple syrup, molasses, and coconut sugar. Nature Valley's Oats and Honey granola bars contain 12 grams of added sugar, and a 6 ounce container of Yoplait vanilla yogurt contains 26 grams of sugar.

Low fat products often have high amounts of sugar. An 8 oz can of soda or energy drink with 27 g of sugar is equal to 7 cubes of sugar

Soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks account for 33% of all added sugars consumed. These quickly absorbed sugars can, over time, lead to insulin resistance. In a study published in Diabetes Care that examined more than 310,000 patients, researchers found that those who drank 1 to 2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages daily, were 26 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank it once a month or not at all.

And what about artificial sweeteners?

Aspartame, sucralose and saccharin were all found to alter the blood sugar levels of mice even more than regular sugar. Artificial sweetener intake was linked to metabolic risk factors, including weight gain. Aspartame, sold as Equal & NutraSweet Is associated with side effects including headaches, blurred vision, depression, hyperactivity, seizures and hearing loss.

Helpful tips

  • Be aware of hidden sugars and don’t let them become part of your food.

  • Don’t be fooled by healthy sounding names that are actually sugar.

  • Sugar raises your blood sugar and spikes insulin, leading to belly fat and disease.

  • Even healthy sounding sweeteners like agave nectar, which contain fructose, not glucose, can affect you adversely.

  • Read food labels. Ingredients are listed in order of volume, so anything with sugar, corn syrup, glucose (or, in general, words ending in "-ose") near the top of the list is likely to be high in sugar.

  • When you do choose a product with added sugar, be aware of the portion size .

  • Avoid processed foods, especially sodas and other sweetened beverages.

  • Sweeten your desserts and beverages with real fruit juices, raw honey, raw stevia leaves or organic coconut crystals – all in moderation.

  • Eat a diet with good quality fat and protein to avoid sugar spikes and possibly prevent diabetes and pre-diabetes.

  • Beware of addiction if you have addictive tendencies.

Michael Pollan in his book “In Defense of Food” says that humans used to eat well. He starts his book by saying “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words are a good message for us all.