A sweet and powerful addiction


When we think of an addiction, we usually associate the term with commonly known addictive substances, like nicotine, alcohol and various street drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc). However, there are certain foods that have a similar addictive power over us which, just like these other substances, can be very difficult to control.

An addiction is an uncontrollable impulse that dominates a person. It is something that is stronger than one’s will. A true addiction always has a destabilizing effect on the emotions and can cloud judgment. On top of it all, when an addict is unable to acquire the substance they are addicted to, they will feel terrible.

Currently, about 65% of the US population is overweight or obese – that’s approximately 2 out of every 3 people. Obesity in itself can have disastrous effects and is commonly related to serious health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and even cancer. Just like street drug use, obesity problems are out of control.

Statistically speaking, there is a direct relationship between the increased amount of sugar consumption in the US and the rise of obesity and its associated diseases. According to studies done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sugar consumption during the 1950s was approximately 42 pounds of sugar per person annually. By the year 2000, the annual sugar consumption had gone up to 160 pounds per person annually.

The soda industry has also grown quite a bit during this time. According to the National Soft Drink Association, it was estimated that in 1998, the national average of soda consumption per person was approximately 54 gallons of soda per year. Just to give you an idea, that’s about 576 cans of soda per person every year, each of which contains about 3 tablespoons (not teaspoons) of sugar.

It has already been proven that sugar can have a strong addictive influence. For example, think about the times you’ve had a strong craving for some food. What type of food were you craving? It’s likely that it was something that contained quite a bit of sugar! For women in particular, it can seem impossible to avoid these types of cravings, especially near their menstrual cycle. For those who deal with stress, it’s just about the same. In short, sugar is most definitely an addictive substance.

There is a hormonal explanation for this addiction. When we consume sugar, the body produces an excess of insulin (a hormone) to remove the sugar from the blood and carry it to the cells. However, insulin has another function, which affects the brain. After consuming sugar, the brain produces substances called beta-endorphin’s which is a type of natural opium produced in the pineal gland. Beta-endorphin’s chemically speaking, are closely related to heroin and morphine, and as far as the brain is aware, they are practically the same thing. Just like with street drugs, when one decides to give up sugar, withdrawal symptoms are sure to follow (such as headaches, anxiety, mood swings, nervousness, etc). Thus, when one has had a habit of consuming sugar regularly and in excess, they will become trapped in its addictive power.

Over the last 10+ years of helping people lose weight and regain their health, I’ve seen first-hand how this sugar addiction can overwhelm a perfectly sane person and turn them into a typical addict. In my book, “The Power of Your Metabolism”, you will find a chapter entitled “Breaking the Addiction”, which includes a technique that can be used to break the addiction to sugar and refined carbohydrates (bread, flour, soda, candy, etc).

I have seen a large array of people who have needed my help to break this addiction – everyone from prestigious lawyers to children. Some, I found, could lose weight very easily by simply eliminating sugar from their diet, while others failed to control their diabetes until they broke this addiction.

It is most certainly a sad fact of life that the food we love frequently tends to be what fattens us the most. The tastiest foods are frequently very high in fat, sugar or both. But between those two, what causes the addiction is sugar.

Yes, sugar can cause a sweet and powerful addiction. It is “legal”, but it is also an equally dangerous substance that can create an addiction just as bad as an illegal street drug.

Frank Suárez
Obesity and Metabolism Specialist

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