America's Sugar Addiction
Should children be arrested for selling caramel popcorn? Crazy title, am I right?! When I first started writing this blog, I wanted the title to really catch people’s attention. I figured putting the word “children” in the same title as “arrested” would definitely grab some attention. So, what’s the story behind this title? America’s sugar addiciton. Sugar is what this title’s all about. I wanted to write a blog about how serious the addiction to sugar is, for adults and children.
When I started researching what the basis would be for this write-up, I came across a few really interesting articles that centered on how sugar is just as addicting to the brain as cocaine and heroin. This automatically made me think about those cute little cub scouts (as my little six year old guy does each fall) out selling caramel covered popcorn, and replacing the caramel popcorn with the unfortunate quick thought of that popcorn being drugs instead. Crazy thought, no? However, in my opinion America’s addiction to sugar is the new cocaine and our society can’t shake the bad habit. In addition to the problems sugar is causing America, it’s also making us sicker then ever.
Let’s talk dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and feel-good hormone that’s released in the brain when the feelings of euphoria, bliss, extreme happiness are being felt by the body. Dopamine is very important for the brain and body. When it is released in appropriate amounts, it aids in certain pathways in the brain that helps movement in the body, sleep, learning, mood, memory, and attention (1). When the brain does not have enough dopamine, movement diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease can be apparent. Parkinson’s Disease is lack of control of bodily movements, i.e. lack of dopamine. Low levels of dopamine is also connected with those who have ADD and ADHD, leaving the brain not enough levels to produce an appropriate amount of attention span.
The connection with dopamine levels and sugar is simple, and mirrors the connection that dopamine has with cocaine and heroin. When one eats sugar or does drugs, they have the feeling of bliss and happiness. Dopamine is then released to make the brain and body feel pleasure and satisfaction. Once the pleasure and satisfaction period is over, the brain is left wanting those feelings felt all over again. Pretty much summing up America’s sugar addiction in a nutshell.
Rats on Oreos
I came across an interesting article on Frobes.com titled “Why Oreos are as Addictive as Cocaine is to your Brain”. They wrote about a study where the brains of rats on oreos, cocaine, and heroin, had identical outcomes. According to Forbes, a protein called c-Fos was seen strongly in rats brains with both drugs and sugar (2). This protein shows up in a specific spot in the brain when the body experiences satisfaction, obsession, and cravings. It’s an area of the brain that is most involved with addiction as well.
Another activity that happens in the brain when one eats sugar or takes drugs, is the activity in the opioid pathway in the brain (3). When this pathway is stimulated, it causes people to spiral out of control. These uncontrollable moments lead to over consumption of sugar or week long drug-use binges.
Sugar is an epidemic problem is our country, and it’s affecting us and our children in more ways than a lot of people are aware of. Sure, some may think, “I don’t eat candy bars or drink pop so this doesn’t pertain to me”. These sort of foods are not what I’m talking about here. I am talking about those foods in which you least expect sugar to be in (health bars, crackers, bacon, drinks, coffees, yoghurt, salad dressings), or sugar that is natural but still contains grams of sugar.
Sugar Filled Daily Breakfast
Let’s talk a typical breakfast, in relation to sugar content. A small child, let’s say she is 6, comes down for breakfast before she heads to school. She is given a bowl of cereal (18g of sugar + 12g for whole milk), apple slices (22g), and a cup of orange juice (22g). This adds up to a whopping 69 grams of sugar! Did you know that this is enough sugar for a 6 year old for almost five days?! And here she is, getting her five days worth at her Monday morning’s breakfast. Just another sugar filled daily breakfast.
What a lot of American’s do not realize is that the body can only break down and utilize so much sugar per day. This is ANY sugar. Sugar from chocolate, an apple, a glass of milk, it’s all sugar that needs to be broken down by the body to be utilized appropriately. For the average adult (gender and body size plays roles), the body can break down about 25-35 grams of sugar per day. This translates to about 6-8 teaspoons per day. Children up to 8 should only be consuming about 12-16 grams (3-4 teaspoons) per day. Older kids and teenagers should have no more the 20-32 grams (5-8 teaspoons) per day. When the body is taking in more sugar then it can process and use as energy in a given day, sugar is left in the body to start causing problems.
Kick the Sugar
Kicking the sugar is never going to be easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Embrace researching which foods contain sugar and learning about how sugar affects your body. A great starting point is to head over to Hidden Sugar In Your Food to get a full list of ingredients that are fluff words for sugar. If you want a good starting point of learning how to be healthier without sugar read over my How to Stay Healthy While Traveling post. Although you may not be traveling, it’s still important to work on your health every day of your life. Don’t let yourself be a part of America’s sugar addiction epidemic.
Make The Change
If you feel like you are addicted to sugar and processed/packaged foods it’s time to make the change. Make the change for yourself, love yourself. Sugar destroys your digestion and makes you sick, it creates an imbalance of your hormones, causes leaky gut, and further more creates an imbalance of gut microbiome that leads to autoimmune disease.
The best way to start this change is to ditch all processed and packaged foods. Can’t do it cold turkey? Then Don’t. Don’t stress yourself out, do it slowly. If you want to go full force at it, then try out my 10 Day Processed Food Detox. It’s a great way to kick start the body! Sugar kills off the good and bad bacteria that live in your gut, so be sure to implement some gut healing foods into your daily life as well!
Sugar is the Bigger Addiction
It’s a tough thought to think of a little six year old cub scouts out selling drugs to neighbors. But, how could you not? It’s been proven by many studies and much research that sugar affects the brain the same way as the drugs cocaine and heroin do. In my personal opinion though, I believe sugar is the bigger addiction here. It’s easier to get, as it’s in almost every building one steps foot into. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, checkout aisles in furniture stores, it’s everywhere, and sugar is more affordable to get then someone trying to score something on the streets.
If you are interested in learning more about sugar/drug similarities please read this amazing article: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-similarities-between-junk-foods-and-drugs