Earlier this year, an article in Nature Magazine argued that sugar is addictive. The article entitled, “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar,” claimed that sugar is a “toxic, addictive substance that should be regulated by the government.” Today, Americans consume approximately 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, almost 3 times the amount the American diet included just 30 years ago. This equates to the consumption of fifteen more pounds of sugar each year, compared to the American diet in 1970. Excess sugar in breads, cereals, and most processed foods, the staples of today’s American diet, contribute to a 31% increase in daily caloric intake, according to childhood obesity facts reported by the “Let’s Move” campaign.
Sugar itself has addictive properties, similar to tobacco, altering brain chemistry to make it extremely challenging to stop consuming it. The authors of the Nature article (a team from UCSF) claim that even individuals who are not obese can succumb to chronic illness because excess sugar can alter the body’s biochemistry. Slender people, with poor nutritional habits, can suffer internally from diabetes, inflammation, or heart disease. Therefore, even physically fit individuals who pass military fitness tests may find themselves suffering from preventable disease based on their dietary choices. The authors suggest that pressing for individual diet changes would not reverse this national epidemic, since many people do not have the ability or willpower to make smart food choices. They offer an extreme solution by recommending increased taxes on processed and sugar-laden foods, as well as decreasing the availability of these foods to youth populations.
However, if you find yourself stuck in a sugar rut, possibly suffering from a sugar addiction, I think there are a few things you can do to help break the cycle! First, fueling your body with fresh, delicious, and clean food by committing to a 3 week “Healthy Body Recharge,” can reset your healthy eating habits. Research has shown (as well as experience!) that when you eat healthier, you feel healthier, and you continue to choose healthier options for your diet. Another idea is to surround yourself with friends and family that help support you in making healthy choices. Instead of meeting friends for donuts or ice cream, meet for frozen yogurt or invite them to your home for a healthy breakfast or brunch. Lastly, trick your mind. Stop telling yourself “I shouldn’t eat that” and instead tell yourself “I don’t eat that.” By making a more assertive statement, you can avoid certain foods by not even giving yourself the option for including them in your regular diet. You can become that person who doesn’t eat donuts, soda, or candy. Now, definitely once in awhile you can give yourself a “treat” but it will be easier to abide by the moderation rule when you’ve convinced your mind that you don’t eat that type of food in your daily diet.
The most important thing is to be aware of the potential for developing an addiction to sugar. Take steps to break the cycle and keep your family healthy!