Alcohol

The Junk Food Generation

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!

Xo, Kristine

Killing Me Sweetly – Breaking My Sugar Addiction

About eleven years ago, when I was in college in Memphis, Tennessee, I did a speech in my Communications class that I endearingly titled, “Chocoholic”. It was about my addiction to chocolate – to sweets.

Sugar is my vice.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to keep chocolates in these plastic containers on the kitchen counter. I would sneak into the kitchen when no one was in there and eat most, if not all, of the chocolate. One time, I ate almost a whole bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and made myself so sick – fever and everything – my mom had to take me to the doctor. Ever since that doomed visit, chocolate was kept carefully hidden away. My addiction was so strong, however, that no matter how good a hiding spot my mom thought she had, I would search until I found my gold.

It has been a struggle. Especially today – sugar is in EVERYTHING. I cannot even have the tiniest taste without it turning into a full blown binge.

I now understand why.

The refinement of sugar cane was invented in India in 1300. When refined sugar was first sent to Europe in the 1600s it was considered an extremely potent drug. It was handled under lock and key only by the apothecaries, who were the druggist of the time.

In France, it was known as crack.

It became apparent that as soon as enough people were exposed to it, that it had the one characteristic that is the most appealing to businessmen – it was addictive. It was so marvelously addictive that they knew that if they could just get enough of it that their fortunes would be made many times over.

So they figured out how to produce it locally – the only way they could figure out how to do it locally was to start the slave trade. The slave trade was exclusively a sugar production mechanism.

And now we are the ones paying the price – we are the ones enslaved.

When did we start paying this price? In the U.S., where we didn’t have access to much sugar initially (it wasn’t a big industry), we had no heart disease until the 1930s. The first textbook written on heart disease was in 1933 by Dudley White, president Eisenhower’s doctor. Eisenhower was one of the first Americans to get heart disease.

What we have now are the diseases of malnutrition and toxicity, the degenerative diseases, in the diet.

Our weights remained quite ideal through the 60’s, but gradually our health started to deteriorate at the same time sugar consumption increased.

In 2000, the World Health Organization realized the damage that sugar was causing – there was a radical increase in ALL degenerative diseases, particularly diabetes, heart disease and cancer. After five years, they gathered the press from all over the world and made an announcement. They had ONE recommendation to make and it was, “Cut all sweetened foods below 10% of calories.” They were proposing a limit – no more than 250 calories of sugar a day.

This statement was on the front page of every major newspaper in Europe and the rest of the world. Except the U.S., and I think you can figure out why.

Researchers are now showing that, actually, sugar is four times more addictive than cocaine. It also affects the same area of the brain that heroine does.

Sugar is more toxic than alcohol – it kills 35 million people a year. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer – all associated with sugar consumption.

Let’s take tobacco, the bigger killer than alcohol, 5 million a year – this is worldwide.

In the case of sugar, United States’ citizens have been studied and our relapse rate is 97%, which makes it four times more additive than drugs or alcohol.

Sugar gets us high by raising glucose levels. Literally, a glucose high is a high, it feels good. When it plunges down afterward, that feels really bad and then we have to have more sugar. That is one of the addictive properties.

Chocolate – even without sugar – is an opiate, it is a stimulant. It is a very complex substance that is highly addictive in spite of the fact that it is a high source of magnesium and contains amino acids. I still eat chocolate but I choose high quality, organic dark chocolate with real cacao that is fair-traded and I limit myself to a one ounce serving a day. It is really important that if we choose to eat chocolate or meat or eggs or drink dairy that we eat or drink only the highest quality of these foods and it is something I will expand upon in another post.

So when I did my speech eleven years ago about being a chocoholic… chocolate junkie is not a joke. It is a literal fact!

Sugar is in practically EVERYTHING and I combat this addiction by staying away from processed foods and sticking to a whole foods diet. It is the only sure way of knowing what I am eating!

I hope this has helped you understand the addictive nature of sugar and how the food industry has cleverly created that “bliss point” when we eat their “foods” and keeps us coming back for more.

Eat well. Be well. Vote with your fork!

Xo, Kristine