Sugar: It’s the New Tobacco

February 11, 2016

You won’t find a Surgeon General’s warning on your bag of sugar, nor is it regulated by the FDA. Yet sugar can be far more addictive than cocaine, and Americans consume way more than they should.  Much of it is found in processed foods and sweetened drinks.  According to a study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine in April 2014, most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Ingestion of sugar, like many drugs, causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain.  For those who are prone to addiction, eating “junk food” which contains added sugars can cause a craving for more sugar which can only be satisfied with increased and steady doses.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added simple sugar (not counting whole foods, fiber, or starch) recommended per day is:

  • Men — 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons)
  • Women — 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
  • Children– 12 grams (3 teaspoons)
  • Pre-Teens/Teens — 20 grams (5 teaspoons)

To compute the caloric count, multiply by four.  For example, 25 grams of sugar is equal to 100 calories.

Overuse of sugar is a leading contributor to obesity in both children and adults, and has been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, inflammation, suppression of the immune system and headaches.

Read the Label

Many common foods, which one might not think of as sugar-laden, have a surprising amount of it.  For example:

  • 1 Tb catsup – 4 g
  • Starbucks Latte Grande – 17 g
  • Graham cracker – 8 g
  • 20 oz Vitamin Water – 33 g
  • 12 oz can of soda – 39 g

Know What You’re Reading

There are literally dozens and dozens of names for sugar and artificial sweeteners found in processed foods.  Some common ones are Aspartame, corn syrup, fructose,  Saccharine, Splenda and Sweet’n’Low.   Some not-so-well-known names are gluten, isolate, sodium cyclamate and truvia, and anything ending in “ose,” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose or sucrose.

Food for Thought

Be a smart and healthy consumer.  “Everything in moderation” is good advice when it comes to most things.  However, if you are one of the unlucky ones with an addictive personality and have a problem with sugar, learn the names used for added sugar in food, read all labels, and avoid something that can cause you so much harm. Stick with whole foods, including fruits (but not juices), and use raw honey to satisfy that craving for sweets.