In my last post, Killing Me Sweetly – Breaking My Sugar Addiction, I talked about sugar’s addictive and toxic nature. I want to dive a little deeper with you into the subject of sugar because it is not just about sugar. It is also about our processed food epidemic.
We are the Junk Food Generation.
Everyone says that everybody should be able to choose what they put in their mouths. I agree 100%. The problem is that you have already been told what to put in your mouth by the food industry because of this change that has occurred over the past 40 years as processed foods and sweets have basically taken over the entire grocery store.
If you go into a supermarket pretty much anywhere in the country and you pick up an item with a food label, the odds are very high that it will have some form of added sugar – most likely high fructose corn syrup, but there are many others as well.
There are around 600,000 food items available in America and, according to the most recent data, 77% of those 600,000 items are laced with added sugar.
What this means is that people can’t find products that would actually be healthy because they have all been adulterated.
It actually limits choice. We need to be able to make choices as to whether to put it in our diet rather than the food industry deciding it for us.
The food industry now employs a whole new breed of mad food scientists that they call “craveability experts.” Their job is to invent addictive, hyper-palatable processed junk foods to ensure that their employer gets the biggest market share – what the insiders call “stomach share.”
If it is true that sugar and highly processed foods affect our brains in ways that drive addiction, then it seems to me that we must, at some point, face the moral question inherent in feeding our children and adults, for that matter, substances that kill more people than smoking, alcohol, cocaine and heroine combined.
A little sugar is okay and had been for generations, really for hundreds of years, but a lot is not.
We have a limited capacity to metabolize this stuff in the same way that we have a limited capacity to metabolize all poisons. The dose determines the poison.
The food industry has learned that when they put the right amount of sugar in any given food, we go hog wild. There are now neuroimaging studies that demonstrate this phenomenon. This hog wild phenomenon – which they call the “bliss point” – is where the dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter in our brain) is most active. The problem is not that it causes pleasure. The problem is that it down-regulates its own receptor, which means that the next time you get a hit, you need a larger dose in order to accomplish the same effect.
A new study published online in the journal Archives of Diseases in Childhood indicates that obese children and adolescents have less sensitive taste buds compared to their lean counterparts. The science shows that people who go off sugar redevelop tastes for other foods.
As processed food has taken over the grocery store, our taste buds and our health, there has been a tremendous increase in obesity and diabetes and other related disorders.
Why is sugar such a problem?
Sugar is empty calories – the only thing sugar provides us with are extra calories. But the food industry’s mantra is, “Well, you can get your extra calories wherever you choose. You can get it from carrots, you can get it from cheesecake, you can get it from Coca-Cola, because a calorie is a calorie and it doesn’t matter where those calories come from. Therefore, why would you pick on any individual food stuff or any individual food additive, for that matter, like sugar?”
If sugar were just empty calories, they would be exactly right. However, that is not what the data shows.
The science says something completely different because of the way sugar is metabolized.
The molecule in sugar called fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is metabolized by the liver, completely differently from the other molecule in sugar called glucose, which is the energy of life.
Because of the way fructose is metabolized and the amounts of sugar many of us are consuming today, it overloads your liver and causes liver fat to accumulate which then leads to all of the chronic metabolic diseases that we know about: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and likely cancer and dementia as well.
In America, 33% of Americans now have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Considering this was a disease that didn’t even exist in 1980, the fact that 33% of Americans now have it is the true epidemic. Many of them will go on to develop cirrhosis and ultimately either die of liver diseases or require a liver transplant.
Fatty liver disease comes from sugar consumption which then causes the pancreas to make extra insulin to make the liver do its job. That raises insulin all over the body. When your insulin is high, it drives all of those diseases and it drives weight gain.
This is the first generation of American children to live shorter lives than their parents.
Childhood obesity has nearly tripled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Why is there so much sugar in our foods?
One of the answers to that is because the food industry learned that it is a preservative. It changes the water activity so that it is much less likely that foods will go stale. Because high fructose corn syrup is miscible in food, they can actually add more to extend its shelf life. It works for the food industry, but it doesn’t work for your health.
If sugar is costing society in a big way, shouldn’t we be doing something to intervene?
When you say that sugar is not just a guilty pleasure and it is not just the source of empty calories but it is a health disaster, you are going up against enormous industries with trillions of dollars at stake.
You are also going up against the resistance that each of us feels to giving up the highly sweetened foods that we have come to enjoy and may have come to be addicted to.
Is the food industry violating our health by adding so much sugar to the food products they sell to us? I would love to hear your thoughts on this by commenting in the box below! 🙂
Eat well. Be well. Vote with your fork!