This post was originally published on December 1, 2014.
Last night, as I was re-enjoying one of my favorite episodes of Law & Order Special Victims Unit where a woman is murdered because of her work with a large soda corporation being sued for causing obesity in children, it got me thinking about the health issues we collectively bastardize as a society—cigarette smoking, drug addiction, alcoholism—yet chose to euphemize because they too inconvenient to tackle. Though I’d like not to be, I’m mainly talking about sugar intake. An article in The Financial Express reported that the government has recently “suggested” to soft drink manufacturers that they reduce the amount of sugar in their products. Hopefully they take suggestions more seriously than I do (just ask my sponsor).
We have all been privy to the widespread panic about high fructose corn syrup in the recent years but from what I have observed, the gravity of the issue hasn’t quite sunk in. While many concerned parents and healthy, conscious adults may have changed their stance on certain foods previously looked at as harmless or totally safe for children—maybe they even cut back or eliminated these foods from their individual and family’s diet—the general consensus still seems to be that sugar, in moderation of course, is completely fine. And I think we need a more of a social wake-up call around this issue.
I am not sure how “normal” people respond to sugar but as a recovering alcoholic who (I believe) was born with the drinking gene, I can recall my behavior around sugar being completely unhealthy when I was as young as three. I’d sneak candy and steal chocolate, hording it away in a secret hiding place. Whether it was a lollipop or literal cubes of sugar, I would passionately nibble on them in the privacy of my own budding addiction. I remember vividly, back then and at various points in my life, obsessing about and compulsively devouring sweets like they were necessary components to my survival.
Upon reflection, it is clear to me that this was a sign of trouble when it came to my future addictive tendencies—later towards men, shopping, alcohol, drugs and sex—but what was my mother to do? It’s pretty hard to get a three-year-old admitted to Betty Ford for being strung out on M&Ms. It’s too bad; I could have used the help.
Whether you are an alcoholic, a drug addict, a sex and love addict or just a completely normal person who is moderate about everything, one thing is for sure: sugar is physically addictive. It doesn’t matter if you have never had more than a half of a glass of wine or have never tried drugs; having too high of a sugar intake—even for a very short period of time—can cause your body to become addicted and it will crave more. The truth is, unless you go out of your way to live sugar-free, you are most likely consuming way too much sugar on a daily basis without even realizing it (excess sugar is defined as anything more than 5% of your daily calorie intake).
A sugar-heavy diet can lead to coronary heart disease, obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), lowered immunity, impaired brain function and increased risk to all kinds of cancer. And that is just the long-term effects. In the moment, excessive sugar causes the person to want to eat more sugar as well as other foods. So even if you aren’t worried about obesity per se, you can be damn sure you will see a difference in the way your jeans fit (or don’t at all). But perhaps most importantly, if you’ve battled an addiction or two already, do you really want to stay enslaved to another?
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