Sugar Addicts Anonymous

Hello everyone, my name is Chris and I am a recovering sugar addict…

     Growing up, I had a huge addiction to sugar. I used to snack on sweets all day and drink copious amounts of soft drink. Now the worst I do is a bit of dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa mass, the lower the sugar) on the odd occasion as a treat and all I drink now is water.

One of the main issues with sugar is its addictiveness. It actually releases a feel good hormone into the body, which is the addictive part. Yet like all addictions, your tolerance grows, so you need more and more to get the same high. In fact, in clinical studies they found rats that were addicted to cocaine were more likely to choose sugar when they were only able to choose one of the two options.

Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals. We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastings. In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction. 

Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., Ahmed, SH. (2007) Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward.

Historically, sugar was quite hard to come by and would have to be transported a long way to be readily available. This made it very expensive. As a result, the average person was unable to get their hands on it and only the rich were able to afford it. So really, sugar is something our bodies have not evolved to consume, especially in high amounts. Consuming sugar for too long creates a lot of stress on the body, making it produce bucket loads of insulin to process it all. Over time, this mechanism that your body uses to process the sugar becomes weaker leading to a state called insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Despite common belief, this is reversible with a healthy diet consisting of no processed sugars.

The most obvious issue with sugars is the weight gain. With the availability of sugar, not to mention all the products on the supermarket shelf that are loaded with the stuff, obesity rates have skyrocketed over the last 50 years. If you look back 100 years, the obesity rates were in the region of just 12%, but now we are starting to nudge the 60% mark. That’s a huge increase by anyone’s standards.

It’s not just the effects we see on the outside that are the issue. Sugar is an extremely acidic substance and what that does is create a huge amount of inflammation in the arteries, and if you read my last post ‘Get Fat’, you will know this means an increased risk of heart disease. The acidity also leaches the minerals from our bones, especially calcium, making them weaker, leading to osteoporosis and the one we can see, tooth decay.

There are so many sources of sugar, it’s just crazy. Processed carbohydrates like breads, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, pre packaged foods, the list just goes on. These grains are just as addictive as sugar, and just as bad for your health. If you start looking at nutritional labels, you should keep an eye out for foods that have a high carbohydrate to protein ratio and avoid them. When you consume protein, and to lesser extent fat with your carbs, it actually slows down the digestion of the carbohydrates, easing the stress on the body. The pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard to produce a huge amount of insulin in one go, the acidity isn’t as much of an issue, there is less inflammation and you are far less likely to store the excess energy as fat.

As a runner, most people would say, sugar and carbs are your main source of energy. Which is true, if your main source of food is carbs. Eat more good fat and less processed carbs your body will burn more fat as energy. I’m not saying go some crazy low carb diet. Vegetables are great sources of carbohydrates and contain far more nutrients than any grain we get off the supermarket shelf. One of the best rules I heard when learning this information was to avoid white foods, with cauliflower being the exception. If your lunch plate is full of various colored vegetables, that’s perfect.

In more recent years, there has been a scale created that you may have heard of called the Glycemic Index. It measures the sugar hit, so to speak, of the carbohydrate source. This scale is hugely flawed. Keep an eye out for next weeks post where I go into more detail on this issue. Until then,

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll 

 

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