I just read the book Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look At Our #1 National Addiction. The book was written by Nancy Appleton, PhD (a self proclaimed recovering sugarholic) and G.N. Jacobs. This post will contain information from that book. The book is 180 pages long. If you find this post interesting and want more information you should read the book. It’s an easy read and full of good stuff. Here is a link to the book on Amazon.
Sugar is addictive. Really addictive. You become dependent on sugar the same way people become dependent on alcohol and drugs. Sugar, alcohol and drugs raise serotonin levels in the brain making a person feel good. When the sugar, alcohol and drugs are taken away, the serotonin levels drop and the body “crashes”. Have you ever had a big piece of cake and maybe some other treats and then really needed a nap. That would be the sugar “crash”. The body doesn’t like to crash so it starts begging for more of whatever it was that raised the serotonin in the first place – more sugar. The cycle continues and you are dependent on an addictive substance. Yuck. Here’s a quote from Suicide by Sugar: “researchers concluded that the sweetness of sugar (and its substitutes) can surpass cocaine rewards, even in addicts.”
I love sugar. I was probably a sugar addict, I guess I still am. 9 months ago I changed the way I (and most of my family) ate to a primal/paleo style diet. It’s hard to describe the way we ate before this change. It wasn’t terrible. We ate lots of vegetables, although they were always the same vegetables and we ate meat, grains and dairy and oh right, cookies, ice cream, chips etc… That’s where I got my sugar. Yum. The one thing we didn’t eat/drink was soda. Not because we were health nuts but because I don’t like anything carbonated. I never have. Not even Champagne. My husband was never big on soda either. My kids (thankfully) are the same way.
Going Primal/Paleo dropped the grains from our diet. This eliminated most of the added sugar. We don’t bake, not even primal/paleo treats so we don’t get any added sugar that way. Once the grains and sugar were gone from my diet I stopped craving them. It didn’t seem hard. It all just happened. I’m going to guess that 9 months ago I didn’t go “hard core” paleo (although I’m sure at the time I thought I was hard core). We kind of eased into it. I’m sure this is why I don’t have terrible memories about dropping grains/carbs and sugar from my diet.
One of the suggestions about removing sugar from your diet that Susan Appleton gives in her book is to do it slowly. She suggests cutting your usual amount of added sugar in half. For example, use half as much sugar in your morning coffee. Do this for several weeks until it tastes normal then reduce again. Maybe cutting in half is too much to start so cut less than half, but cut some of it out. Slowly reduce until you can drop it all together. Do this with all added sugar. As you cut the sugar you will start to notice that everything tastes sweeter. My family now eats grapefruit the way we used to eat oranges. I used to HATE grapefruit, now I love it.
In my last post Indulgence = Sugar Detox I mentioned that when I suggest to friends that they drop sugar out of their diet they don’t panic the way they do when I suggest dropping grains. I believe this is because they have no idea how much sugar they really consume. After reading Suicide by Sugar I really believe that to be true.
Here’s a quote from the book about a healthy body’s threshold for added sugar
“For most healthy people, it is about 2 teaspoons of added sugar at one time, two or three times a day.”
This is for a “healthy body”. If you are over weight and/or have any other health issues she recommends NO SUGAR. To put this in perspective, when you look at a food label, 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. If the label says there are 8 grams of sugar in the food Susan Appleton suggests only eating half a portion in one sitting.
In 2009 when Suicide by Sugar was written Susan Appleton states that the average person consumed around 142 pounds of sugar per person per year. That is the equivalent of 48 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s a lot of sugar. Those numbers represent total sugar consumed. The sugar you really need to be aware of and reduce is ADDED SUGAR.
“In the United States, the average person consumes about 74 pounds of added sugar per year, according to survey data from 1999 to 2002. That’s about 23 teaspoons of added sugar every day – 460 calories that supply no additional nutrients and upset the body chemistry.”
Food labels don’t distinguish between natural sugar and added sugar. One of the easiest ways to reduce your added sugar intake is to stop eating processed foods. Eat whole, natural foods that you buy around the perimeter of the grocery store.
“Most of the added sugar goes to the following products: regular soft drinks (with sugar, non-diet), candy, pies, fruit drinks, milk-based desserts and products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk) and grain products (cakes and cookies).”
Keep in mind that when a product is advertised as being “low fat” it usually has more sugar than the full fat version. Sugar is added to improve the taste.
If you are interested in examining more data regarding the amount of added sugar in popular grocery store foods the USDA has a 52 page document outlining this information. Here is a link to the PDF file. Remember, this is information that you can’t see on the nutrition label.
I’ve given you some interesting statistics about the average Americans sugar consumption. Good stuff. Stuff I have never read before. Pretty scary actually. Although this is interesting stuff, the book is really about how damaging sugar is to our bodies. I could go on for days but I’ll just be repeating what Nancy Appleton says in her book. If you need convincing, if you don’t really think sugar is so terrible you should probably read the book.
I’ll wrap this up with a few more things that I found interesting.
“How To Tell If You Have A Sugar Addiction
Do you drink one, two, three or four sodas per day? With what sweeteners do you cut your morning coffee? Do you use sugar? Honey? What about the morning doughnut that goes with coffee? After each meal do you need to have something sweet? Are most of your snacks sugar-laden?”
Leptin, Ghrelin and Insulin are the three hormones in the body that control when we feel full or hungry and metabolize sugar. Leptin tells our bodies when we are full. Ghrelin tells our bodies when we are hungry and need to eat. Insulin’s job is to metabolize most of the sugars.
Insulin metabolizes the sugars by taking glucose from the bloodstream and depositing it as energy in cells that need it. When glucose enters you bloodstream insulin in released to do it’s glucose moving job. Glucose needs to be removed from the bloodstream so if there is excess glucose and all cells have what they need the excess glucose will be removed from the bloodstream and turned into fat. It can’t hang out in the bloodstream. When insulin is released the body is told to make less ghrelin. When less ghrelin is made you feel full. This all works great with glucose, especially if you keep your sugar consumption to 2 teaspoons in one sitting (no excess). Not so great with fructose.
“Not all sweeteners and sugars respond to the insulin cycle. For example, fructose doesn’t use insulin to metabolize. It metabolizes in the liver. Therefore, no insulin is released when we eat fructose, so ghrelin levels remain constant and the body still feels hungry. Since fructose causes people to keep feeling hungry even after eating, they are likely to continue eating until obesity eventually sets in.”
Yep, fructose is bad. If you start thinking about High Fructose Corn Syrup when you hear the word fructose you would be thinking the right thing. Bad stuff.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, consumption of high fructose corn syrup increased from 19 pounds per person per year in 1980 to 63.8 pounds per person per year in 2004.”
The primary theme of the book is Homeostasis, keeping the body in balance. Sugar is one of the human bodies major stressors. Excess sugar will throw body chemistry off. “If one mineral is out of balance it affects the whole body.”
I focus a lot of my energy on whole body health. The information in the book Suicide by Sugar helped me move further along my path to understanding whole body health. It gave me a much better understanding of how sugar effects the human body and how to identify sugars in my diet. I don’t think I will ever give up all sugar but at least I am now making an informed decision when I choose to eat sugar. That’s all we can do, educate ourselves and make informed decisions.
Be Healthy and Eat Well
Appleton, Nancy & Jacobs, G.N. 2009. Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look At Our #1 National Addicition. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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