I have to admit, as I transfer my old posts over from my old blog, I am enjoying reflecting back on some of these musings! Sugar is still something I struggle with, and this was an excellent reminder of why we should avoid it as much as possible.
If I were to challenge you to avoid added and refined sugars for 30 days, a few of you may think this to be no big deal. Personally, I have an admitted sugar addiction, and I initially found this entire concept down right frightening.
The word “addiction” is often thrown around loosely, but it seems to me that addictions are taken most seriously when they are associated with drugs and alcohol. The medical dictionary defines addiction as: “a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance.” The opens up a very broad spectrum of possibilities.
A brief look at the science behind some of this:
- Substance addictions in particular are linked to generating responses from two major neurotransmitters in the brain: dopamine and serotonin. These two chemical messengers affect a wide variety of things in our bodies, such as eating, sleeping, emotions and sexual behaviors.
- Drugs like LSD and ecstasy contain molecules that fit together like puzzle pieces with serotonin receptors, giving them a boost (Hanson 2007). Alcohol has been linked to direct interference with the function of serotonin receptors and/or increasing the release of serotonin, depending on the level of consumption (Lovinger, 1990). Marijuana reacts with a neurotransmitter (cannabinoids) that controls cravings, which in turn regulate dopamine pathways. Smoking a cigarette can even generate serotonin and dopamine responses (Cann, 2012).
What does this all have to do with sugar? Sugar is a substance that not only triggers a response from both serotonin and dopamine, but also gets a reaction from cannabinoids. This seems like pretty good evidence that certain foods not only make use feel good during consumption, but actually make us crave them when the cannabinoids are released. Even artificial sweeteners can generate these responses (Cann 2012).
We all know that being under the influence of drugs and alcohol can impair our physical and mental functions. Drugs and alcohol can damage our bodies, especially if consumed in mass quantities over long periods of time. Sugar is no different, especially over time.
So you finish reading this blog and maybe decide to take me up on the 30 day challenge. It’s time to go through your cupboards and fridge and rid yourself of the offensive substance, so you begin reading labels…and you realize that sugar is a sneaky substance, showing up in many things, under many different names.
Glucose, fructose, sucrose…all types sugars, and all used differently in the body. High fructose corn syrup is such an evil substance, it deserves its own blog, but I will settle today for honorable mention. When I cleaned out my fridge, I found this cheap, highly processed filler listed as the number two ingredient in my catsup. Really?!?!
Some quick information on the three sugars mentioned above:
- Glucose: Guided by our insulin, it is sent either to the cells in the body for immediate energy use or condensed and stored as glycogen in the liver or muscles for later use.
- Fructose: Processed almost entirely by the liver, with evidence of this extreme load associated to increasing risks of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease over time. This fun stuff is also linked to giving your appetite a boost, rather than satiating or suppressing it.
- Sucrose: (a.k.a. Table Sugar) is one part fructose and one part glucose.
(For excellent details and further descriptions, check out Mark Sisson’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple.)
The consumption of sugar can have confusing and conflicting information. Genetically speaking, we are simply not meant to consume refined sugars, especially not in the mass quantities that are available and marketed to us today.
Say you come across some sugar cane on a hike and you decide to stop and curb your sweet tooth. You would first have to chop it down, removed the tough wood exterior, then cut the interior into manageable pieces. Twenty minutes or so later, you can finally chew on the pieces of pulp, extracting the small amount of sugar, before having to spit out the fibrous remains. This kind of put a new spin on the packages of “natural cane sugar” filling the shelves.
We are only meant to consume sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables, that comes alongside many additional nutrients, and not as a primary source of energy. An interesting fact to consider here regarding carbohydrates; All carbs are converted and used in the body as glucose (aka sugar). What did we just learn about sugar? It is not meant to be the primary source of our energy. Fat is the genetically preferred source of energy for the human species. (For another excellent writeup, check out this link to Mark Sisson’s info on fat at Mark’s Daily Apple.)
It all comes back to choices and not making things too complicated. If you stick to eating real food, nothing man made, and completely cut out refined carbs such as white rice, white pasta, and white bread, you will automatically be cutting out a ton of added sugar.
There is so much information available on this topic, and it is impossible for me to fit everything I want to share in just this one writeup. I want to conclude with a brief list of information I learned from Dr. Steve Czys, on of some of the more negative effects sugar consumption can have on our bodies:
- Refined sugars elevate glucose, which raises insulin, which leads to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Sugar destroys your immune system and fuels cancer.
- Sugar is an anti-nutrient, providing insignificant amounts of vitamins and minerals and actually robbing your body of good nutrients. This causes diseases such as fatigue, ADD, ADHD, heart disease, diabetes, and cancers.
Until next time, thank you to all of my readers for sticking with me! Any requests or comments are welcome, I appreciate your insight.
Cann, Kevin. Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted To…Food? Posted Feb. 29, 2012 to: www.robbwolf.com/2012/02/29/might-as-well-face-it-youre-addicted-to-food. Retrieved March 5, 2012
Hanson, Dirk (September 21, 2007) Addiction Inbox: Serotonin and Dopamine: A Primer. Retrieved March 9, 2012
Lovinger, David M. Ph.D. (1999) The Role of Serotonin in Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain.
Current Separations; University School of Medicine Vanderbilt, Nashville, TN. Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Retrieved March 9, 2012