The poison in your pantry – and you eat it every day.

Posted: August 1, 2013 in Popular Culture et al
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Sugar under a microscope, in more ways than one ... this is actually sugar cane in its raw form.

Sugar under a microscope, in more ways than one … this is actually sugar cane in its raw form.

It gives you a rush, messes with your mind, and always leaves you wanting more – and now researchers are calling for the government to regulate the sweet stuff like a drug.


For a pick-me-up, you may feel the urge to inhale a bag of M&M’s or wolf down a box of cookies. But the impulse goes deeper.

To examine the hold sugar can have over us, substance-abuse researchers have performed brain scans on subjects eating something sweet.

And what they’ve seen resembles the mind of a drug addict: when tasting sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it would in an alcoholic with a bottle of gin. Dopamine – the so-called reward chemical-spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. (Sugar also fuels the calming hormone serotonin.)

No wonder you reach for the choccies or a slice of mud cake when you’re feeling down.


In times of stress, dieters are more likely to binge, studies conclude. That said, a cookie once in a while (say, twice a week) is fine, but on most days go instead for oatmeal with brown sugar, suggests Jeffrey Fortuna, Ph.D., a health and behavior lecturer at California State University, Fullerton. The whole grains fill you up and the sweetness is just enough to release that useful serotonin.


You stay away from burgers and drink diet soda. But sugar – both real and artificial – is the secret saboteur. When the pancreas senses sugar, the body releases insulin, which causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen for energy. Eat too much at once, though, and insulin levels spike, then drop.

 The aftermath? You feel tired, then crave more sustenance to perk up. And pretend sugars don’t help.

“Artificial sweeteners travel to the part of the brain associated with desire but not to the part responsible for reward,” says Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Nor do they trigger the release of the satiety hormones that real sugar does, so you’re more likely to consume more calories.


Feed sweet cravings with fruit (the fiber will help keep insulin in check, too), and substitute sparkling water for diet soda. If you must indulge, go for a small snack made with real sugar, and eat it slowly. Add fruit or yogurt to feel fuller and prevent a crash.


Blanking out in the middle of a meeting?

Research out of the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that sugar forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane and compromises nerve cells’ ability to communicate. This could have repercussions in how well we remember instructions, process ideas, and handle our moods, says Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, Ph.D., author of the UCLA study. 


Stay under the USDA limit of 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of added sugar a day.

Read labels and available nutrition information at the supermarket or fast food outlet: a 16-ounce Starbucks vanilla latte and a typical bagel will max out your day’s allotment of sugar. A wiser choice: black coffee and plain yogurt with antioxidant-rich blueberries and walnuts, sweetened with honey.


Sugar causes premature aging, just like cigarettes and UV rays do. With young skin (generally under 35), when skin support structures collagen and elastin break down from sun or other free-radical exposure, cells repair themselves. But when sugar travels into the skin, its components cause nearby amino acids to form cross-links. These cross-links jam the repair mechanism and, over time, leave you with premature – permanent – wrinkles.


Once cross-links form, they won’t unhitch, so keep sugar intake to as close to zero as you can. “It’s the enemy,” says Dr. William Danby, a dermatologist with Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire. Avoid fizzy drinks and processed pastries and if you’re scattering sugar on your dessert try cinnamon instead – it slows down cross-linking, as do cloves, oregano, ginger, and garlic.


Muscles need sugar for fuel, so carbs (which break up into glucose, a type of simple sugar) can kick-start your morning jog. But fruit or prepackaged snacks touting “natural sweeteners” contain just fructose, which is metabolized in the liver, not the muscles. The result: a bloated tummy, or even the “runs”.


A glucose-packed snack with just 4 to 8 grams of fructose – it’ll help increase glucose absorption, says Dr. Richard Johnson, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver. Try a sports drink like Gatorade or nuts with dried fruit an hour before your workout.

In short: sugar bad. Bad, bad, bad. Remember that processed foods are jam-packed with the stuff, even foods that are touted as “healthy”.  Like all these things, it’s about being aware, alert, and sensible.

Never eating a chocolate again would be a miserable existence. Eating them all the time is a guarantee of one.

See also: Could you name the signs of diabetes? What everyone should know.

Looks awful good though, dunnit?

Looks awful good though, dunnit?

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Boston Globe Magazine featured a profile of Harvard professor Walter Willett, calling him the “world’s most influential nutritionist.” Willett’s influence comes as much from his ability to debunk or reframe studies about food and nutrition as it does from his original work.

In the long and very interesting article, Globe writer Neil Swidey mentions a recent study of Willett’s that was released in June: a new look at the 123,000 people involved in a 20-year study ending in 2006 found elevated red-meat consumption to be linked with an increase in diabetes.

According to the study, conducted by Willett and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, participants who ate at least a half serving more red meat over a four-year period were 48 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes in the following four years. Conversely, those who lowered their meat consumption by more than half a serving per day decreased their diabetes risk. The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Previous studies have connected red meat intake with an increased risk of diabetes, but Willett’s study was the first to show that eating more meat raises a person’s risk — and vice versa.

Not surprisingly, the meat lobby strongly refutes such claims—“nothing to see here, folks!”—and frequently attempts to dismiss studies that are critical of meat. And there’s little doubt that they have skillfully made the case that eating red meat has beneficial effects, too.

To cut or not to cut, that is the question ...

To cut or not to cut, that is the question …

“While some recent studies have generated headlines linking meat to different ailments, it is important to remember that conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are complex conditions that cannot simply be caused by any one food,” American Meat Institute spokesman Eric Mittenthal told the media.

Fair enough: and on the FAQs page of, a site run by an industry lobby group called the American Meat Institute, are urgings for readers to not give up their meat: “The wisest course of action is a balanced diet, weight control, plenty of exercise and a healthy degree of skepticism about the ‘study of the week,’ ” the site reads. Well, few people could argue with that.

But Willett’s four decades of research and consistently reliable findings are difficult to dismiss wholesale. And while he admits further study is necessary to account for lifestyle and other health factors, Willett and his colleagues believe the strong connection found between red meat and diabetes warrants people cutting back on their consumption of beef, pork or lamb (giving up meat on Mondays may be a good place to start, depending on your opinion).

Of course, if Willett’s findings hold true, the result of a less meat-centric diet may be a reduction in the instances of diabetes, which has skyrocketed in recent years. And that would be great news indeed.

(From Yahoo and other sources)

  1. Peter Morley says:

    Hi Yolly, very interesting reading. I’ve been sugar free now for 8 days and lost 3kg! Cut out the soft drinks and fruit juices, biscuits, cakes, chocolates, lollies, white bread and beer. No withdrawals and feeling fine. Karen has done the same and lost over 2kg (there’s less to lose on her than there is on me). A bloke gave me a speech about it two Mondays ago, all about the evils of processed sugar. I peaked at 117.7kg and am now in the 114’s. The goal is 95kg…



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