Friday, December 18, 2009

Moderate Sweets: Research Finds Sugar Guilty of Drug-Like Activity

Since it's the holiday season and candy, sweets and junk food are everywhere, I thought I would share the article below with you in hopes of inspiring moderation and caution. Although many people give up their diets this time of year because apparently it's the one time of year that group binging is socially acceptable, I would encourage you to stay on track! It is possible with a little planning and foresight. Visit an old post of mine from exactly one year ago on some tips for how to have holiday willpower. Looking back on it, it's pretty hilarious.

Thanks to Stop Being Sweet, I read an article in Psychology Today that presents new disturbing findings about sugar. Disturbing, yes, but not necessarily totally new information to those of us who are familiar with the affects of sugar and junk food on our brains, bodies and desires. Of course the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I need. Of course if I have cake for breakfast I'm going to want sweets the rest of the day. Of course I can justify sweets and junk foods because of their ability to comfort......

But here is the hard evidence:

"Bit by bit, experimenters, along with their sacrificial mice and rats, have built up a strong case for equating the effects of gorging on sweet, fatty fare with the effects of hard drugs.

In controlled experiments, the animals that binged on fast foods like Ho-Hos and sausages:

(1) wanted more and more (showing habituation)
(2) needed more and more to feel "normal" levels of pleasure (showing acclimatization)
(3) held out for the hard stuff, refusing nutritionally balanced rat chow even if hungry (showing distorted priorities)
(4) kept gorging on treats while receiving electric shocks to their naked little feet (showing the self-destructive over-motivation drug addicts experience)
(5) took a long time to recover their dietary equilibrium, some never making it all the way back (indicating that their neural networks -- like hard-drug addicts' -- had been radically rewired).

If loading up on sweet, rich food was merely addictive, we'd be fine, but, alas, excessive sugar intake also facilitates the onset of Alzheimer's, diabetes and not only heart-taxing weight-gain itself but, especially when combined with fat, the metabolic propensity to pack on extra pounds.

(I find this next piece most fascinating:)

Jeffrey I Gordon, M.D. director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University recently recreated a human environment in the guts of "clean" (germ-free) mice, and found that switching half the mice from a plant-based diet to a fat-and-sweet "Western" one changed the animals' intestinal flora within days. Mice with the changed intestinal mix gained weight faster, even back on a low-fat diet."

The Psychology Today article is laced with references and research published in peer-reviewed journals. There are several links throughout the article, which if you have the time, take a look. They are very interesting.

Click here: (Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake) for a fascinating article with more information about sugar addiction.

According to the research, "gorging" and "excessive" intakes of sugar are the problem. I don't think too many people are concerned with a few grams of sugar here and there--but who eats this little sugar? I wish I could eat tiny amounts of sugar in moderation so I could enjoy a dark chocolate bar or a bite of ice cream but I guess I am much like a rat or a mouse. A little leads to a lot, and the craving for more.


pixiepine said...

Totally experienced this crazy psychedelic sugar high issue today! I've been following the Eat To Live plan for a litle over a month, and that involves no refined sugar. I get one splurge a week, with a small Starbux treat of my choice. I was like a crazed person right after that drink today. Whew!!!...and then the crash!

Concerned said...

I am currently reading the article you linked to. It's heavy - going but I think I am managing to pick out the salient points. It makes me want to study the topic in more detail. I have a degree in philosophy, it could take me a while before I begin to grasp the science herein!

Concerned said...


If I understand the linked article correctly that drink at Starbucks caused hyperlocomotion (nothing to do with Madonna). Actually knowing that scientists are concerned with the effects of sugar is reassuring. Even though I have tried before to give up sugar before I always manage to convince myself that my intentions are mistaken. I guess it's important to understand what it is you hope to achieve. Sugar abstention may not be an immediate panacea for your current maladies but it can, at least we assume, stall the development of serious problems such as Alzheimer's, cancer etc.